U officials, athletes testify in Brenny trial

The discrimination trial continued Thursday.

Dane Mizutani

University of Minnesota officials and student athletes took the stand Thursday in former associate women’s head golf coach Katie Brenny’s  lawsuit against the University Board of Regents.

Brenny alleges that as her boss, former Director of Golf John Harris diminished her job duties against after discovering she is a lesbian. Brenny resigned in October 2010, two months after being hired.

Her coaching job description listed by the University included the responsibility to “assist in selection, supervision and coaching of the team toward a positive experience and athletic excellence,” according to the complaint.

The defense called Gophers athletics Executive Administrative Specialist Mary Christensen-White and  Liz Eull, University deputy chief of staff for policy and initiatives Thursday.

Eull testified she and other University officials met with Brenny and Harris multiple times to diffuse the coaches’ adverse relationship, but no solution was found.

Eull said Brenny approached her and former Associate Athletics Director David Crum  in September 2010, saying she was confused about her job responsibilities.

Brenny, who Harris hired as associate women’s head golf coach in August 2010, was unhappy with the tasks Harris assigned her, Eull said.

Around the same time, Eull said, Harris also came to her and said he was upset with Brenny’s attitude during the first two weeks of her employment. He said he wanted the University to fire Brenny.

Eull said Brenny thought when she took the job that she would have a more active coaching role, but Harris only allowed her to observe players and handle administrative tasks.

Eull said she thought Brenny’s duties were similar to other University coaches.

After multiple meetings between Eull, Brenny, Harris and Crum, Eull said, the relationship between Brenny and Harris did not improve.

In October 2010, Eull and Brenny met with former Athletics Director Joel Maturi , Eull said. In the meeting, all three agreed the relationship between Brenny and Harris was “broken,” Eull said.

In that meeting, Eull said, Brenny made it clear she wished to resign, but wanted the University to pay out the rest of her contract, which expired in June 2011.

Maturi refused to pay the rest of the contract, Eull said. Several days later, the University offered Brenny a sales position at TCF Bank Stadium.

Brenny declined the sales position, choosing instead to resign and accept a separation agreement with the University, according to the complaint.

Brenny rescinded her resignation during the 15-day grace period allowed by the state of Minnesota. The University then indicated it wouldn’t renew her contract and would instead assign her to the sales position.

Following Eull’s testimony, Brenny’s attorneys called several witnesses.

Two members of the women’s golf team, redshirt junior Taylor Quinn  and senior Banchalee Theinthong , said all the players liked Brenny and thought she did nothing wrong during her tenure.

“She was the only coach that was there for me,” Quinn said.

Quinn and Theinthong also said Harris and former Director of Instruction Ernie Rose , Harris’ son-in-law, were both rude to Brenny and all the women golfers. Rose and Harris were very negative and often yelled at the team during meetings, Quinn and Theinthong said.

Brenny also testified Thursday.

In her testimony, she said she never intentionally disobeyed any of Harris’ orders and never did anything that warranted his hostility toward her.