Ex-Lady Vols media director sues University of Tennessee, athletic director for discrimination and forced retirement

Debby Jennings, who was Lady Vols media director for 35 years until retiring last spring, is suing Tennessee and athletic director Dave Hart:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former Lady Vols media director Debby Jennings has filed a lawsuit against the University of Tennessee and athletic director Dave Hart alleging that age and sex discrimination led to her forced retirement from the school where she had worked for 35 years.

Hart and other athletic officials wanted to remodel the athletic department as a ”good ol’ boys” club while replacing her with a younger man, Jennings charges in the lawsuit filed Thursday with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Jennings was 57 years old when she left her job in May as the university worked toward consolidating the men’s and women’s athletic departments.

The suit also alleges that Hart forced former Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summitt to step down at the end of last season. David Burkhalter, the lawyer representing Jennings, said the university retaliated against his client when she protested that Summitt’s early onset dementia protected her under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Summitt, who remains on staff as the Lady Vols’ head coach emeritus, indicated during the April news conference announcing her retirement that the move was her own decision.

Although Tennessee officials declined comment on the other allegations in the lawsuit, they flatly denied the charge that Summitt was forced out.

”It’s absolutely not true,” university spokesperson Margie Nichols said. ”It was Pat’s idea to become the head coach emeritus. I think she made that really clear at her press conference earlier this year.”

I am one of those who knew it was only a matter of time before this happened, but it is still sad to see it go down.


  1. I imagine. At the end of the day the staffing changes are going to be positioned as a "reorganization" in order to make Tennessee athletics more efficient and gain financial economies of scale. Tennessee is a Right to Work state.

    The plaintiffs are going to try to win on a gender discrimination basis. My point with my original comment is that it occurs to me that at this stage in her life Summitt doesn't deserve to be thrown into litigation on this type of scale. It's just too bad because the plaintiff will probably lose in the end and Summitt will go through all of the stress that litigation brings with it. At this stage in her life I'm thinking she deserves better.

  2. This is not the way the legendary Pat Summitt should go out. Ms. Summitt is Tn.Lady Vol Basketball. UT should be glad that Pat is taking the high road. She has always carried herself, and her program, with class. She is second to none. And,of all things, Dave Hart, the AD, wants to stop using the Lady Vol logo. UT needs to remove Dave Hart.