New Twist to Katie Brenny's Minnesota Lesbian Discrimination Story

| by Pat Griffin

Last December I blogged about a situation brewing at the University of Minnesota in which a lesbian, Katie Brenny, hired to coach the women’s golf team filed a sex discrimination lawsuit against the university and the director of golf, John Harris.

Brenny charged that she was demoted from coach to paper pusher and push up leader one month into the school year when Harris discovered that Brenny is a lesbian. He replaced her with his son-in-law in a questionable personnel move at a higher salary that Brenny’s.

Harris has resigned citing the need to (surprise) spend more time with his family. He is adamant that his resignation has nothing to do with Brenny’s lawsuit. All who believe this raise your hands. The university had vowed to back Harris with the stipulation that they would withdraw that support if Harris violated any university policies in his actions with Brenny. Since the U has a strong non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation, I wonder if Harris had a premonition that he was not going to be able to count on the university’s backing in the long run. He hired his own lawyer.

He is charging that Brenny is “defaming” his reputation “unfairly” and is only out to get her hands on some of the millions he has earned playing pro golf. I am thinking she might be defaming his reputation fairly.

Here’s what I think happened: John Harris came into the position of golf director at the U as a golden boy alum with lots of money and connections. He is used to working in the private sector and being a big wheel. He thought he was hiring a nice attractive straight young woman with great golf credentials to coach the women’s golf team. A month into the semester, he discovered that he had instead hired a nice attractive lesbian young woman with great golf credentials to coach the women’s golf team. Being the BMOC that he is, I think Harris disregarded or was ignorant of university policy and went about correcting his” mistake” by demoting Brenny to secretary/fitness instructor and promoting his son-in-law to women’s golf coach without attending to the niceties of university hiring policies. According to media accounts, Brenny was completely baffled by her demotion. Once she figured out why she was no longer coaching, she got a lawyer and sued. Sounds like a plan to me.

This is speculation on my part, but it makes the most sense to me. I just don’t see how the U can explain Harris’ actions in any way that makes sense other than this.

It will be interesting to see how the U proceeds now that Harris is out of the picture. The AD at University of Minnesota was already under heavy criticism for previous questionable personnel decisions in the athletic department involving coaching hires. The Brenny case is scheduled to go to trial in December. It is currently in the discovery phase. Stay tuned.