Former Florida State coach says Dave Hart was bully to women

Others believe AD proactive in approach to equity

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL 
 Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart addresses members of Knox County Rotary Clubs at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on July 17.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess, ©KNS/2012

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart addresses members of Knox County Rotary Clubs at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on July 17.

The unrelenting letter to the editor, postmarked June 21, arrived in Knoxville by way of Tallahassee, Fla.

JoAnne Graf, Florida State's softball coach from 1978-2008, recalled 13 years of discrimination and inequity. Her former athletic director, she wrote, was a "bully (to) women both directly and indirectly." Her former athletic director was "threatened by strong, independent women." Her former athletic director was "definitely not an advocate for women."

Her former athletic director is current Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart.

In a June 16 News Sentinel story on the anniversary of Title IX, Hart stated, "People ask me, with (former UT women's athletic director) Joan (Cronan) retiring, who will be the advocate for women's athletics? That's always struck me as odd because I will be the advocate."

That statement, Graf wrote, made her "incredulous."

"Dave is really good at appearing to do the right thing, but when you look behind the scenes that's when you really begin to find out that he's not an advocate," Graf said in a follow-up interview with the News Sentinel. "I had to fight for everything that our softball program got down here, it was like nothing could be handed to us."

Hart declined an invitation to respond to this story.

Several other coaches and administrators from both Tennessee and athletic departments Hart previously led, however, spoke in his defense. They lauded him as a committed leader in women's athletics. UT senior women's administrator Donna Thomas went so far as to say, "I believe he is as much or more of an advocate for our young women as anyone who has ever worked here."

Cronan, a torchbearer of UT women's athletics from 1983 until being named special adviser to the chancellor and women's athletics director emeritus last year, echoed Thomas, saying,

"To think the University of Tennessee would ever hire an athletic director that's not supportive of women's athletics is wrong. I was on the search committee and I've known Dave Hart for 30 years. He's totally supportive of women's athletics."

Hart served as Florida State AD from 1995-2007 following eight years in the same position at East Carolina (1987-95). One of the main highlights of FSU women's athletics during his tenure was the softball program's nine Atlantic Coast Conference titles and 2002 Women's College World Series appearance.

Graf ranked as college softball's all-time winningest coach with 1,437 wins when she retired from Florida State in 2008. The softball field was renamed JoAnne Graf Field at the Seminole Softball Complex in April of 2005. Hart and Florida State president Dr. T.K. Wetherell oversaw the ceremony.

Graf's portrait of Hart at FSU is of an administrator who cradled male coaches and programs, but cast female coaches and programs adrift. "We weren't given anything because we earned it," she told the News Sentinel. "We had to constantly go in and ask for an equitable facility, ask for equitable treatment for the assistant coaches, ask for a raise, ask for things for the student-athletes."

She claimed he used the "fear factor of losing your job" to muzzle outspoken female members of the athletic department. "It was very clear that he's not to be questioned," said Graf, a six-time ACC coach of the year honoree. "His decisions are the things that basically need to be followed."

Graf, who earned a Ph.D. in physical education at FSU, is a sports management professor at the university, teaching Current Issues in Sport Management, Diversity in Sport, Sport Governance, Ethics in Sport and Human Resource Management in Sport.

In an email to the News Sentinel, Wetherell, FSU's president from 2003-09, said, "During my presidency I never had a female coach, staffer, (graduate assistant), or athlete make or raise any harassment issues either directly or indirectly nor formally or informally. When Dave left FSU, every women's program was clearly stronger than when he took over as athletic director."

As a self-proclaimed Title IX advocate, Graf said she would bring up "instances of inequities" at Florida State and get "called in and called on the carpet" by Hart. She said she reported her problems to FSU Title IX coordinator Dianne Harrison because she could express issues "without fear of retaliation."

Harrison, now the president at Cal-State Northridge, confirmed that Graf filed complaints to her office, but added that FSU's women's athletic department "took great strides under Hart's leadership."

Graf pointed to the disparity of female administrators to male administrators on Hart's senior staff (four women among 24 positions) at Tennessee as an example of inequity.

"It's disturbing to me that there are so few women in upper management in the Tennessee athletic department," Graf said. "I'm not surprised it's happened because I know his attitude, but I am disappointed."

Cronan replied saying, "It's a concern and Dave knows it's a concern and he's working through that in the transition just like we're working at the university in all areas to have diversity and have equity."

Two current coaches of women's teams at Florida State, soccer coach Mark Krikorian and basketball coach Sue Semrau, presented a different picture of Hart than that of Graf.

"In terms of gender equity and supporting women, the best thing I can say is that Mr. Hart made me and our women's soccer players feel like (Florida State) was a women's soccer school," said Krikorian, who was hired by Hart in 2005 and spearheaded the school's first appearance in the national championship game in 2007.

Noting positives stemming from Hart's tenure, Krikorian pointed to improvements in FSU's state-of-the-art facility, competitive pay for assistant coaches and allocated resources in academic, strength and conditioning and video support.

Improvements to FSU's women's facilities, Graf countered, were mandated by the school's Title IX compliance office and "Dave happily took credit."

According to Krikorian, when recently hired Tennessee women's soccer coach Brian Pensky called him to ask about his experience with Hart, Krikorian praised Hart and recommended Pensky pursue the job.

Pensky, Hart's first coaching hire at Tennessee, replaced Angela Kelly, who left the Lady Vols to take over at Texas. Asked of her one-year experience working under Hart, Kelly only responded, "Tennessee is a wonderful place!"

Concerning Hart being proactive or reactive in his approach to equity, Semrau said, "Without question he'll be proactive in equity for women's athletics. Does (the UT's men's and women's athletic department merger) mean that women's athletics won't get the same kind of support and resources that they need? Absolutely not, in my opinion."

Hart hired Semrau in 1997. The three-time ACC coach of the year is now FSU's all-time leader in wins.

In response to questions on Hart's management methods with women's coaches, Semrau said, "Dave believes in a leadership style that has been extremely successful, but it's not always everyone's favorite style. It's effective and efficient."

Holly Warlick, whom Hart promoted to women's basketball coach amid Pat Summitt's retirement in April, added, "I have a great relationship with Dave. I'm very comfortable with him and he's never told me no on anything. Since April he's been extremely supportive."

As for Alabama women's athletics, the program Hart left behind upon coming to Tennessee in September of 2011, the Crimson Tide won three women's national championships — softball, golf and gymnastics — in 2011-12. Hart worked as Alabama's assistant athletic director from 2008-11.

"I don't know if you'd find (Hart's influence) on the results per se, but speaking for the two coaches I directly work with, he appreciated what they did every day," said Marie Robbins, Alabama senior women's administrator. "He wouldn't necessarily say it every day, but if a team had a big win, he'd be right on the phone to congratulate them. Coaches appreciate that."

In Hart's 20-plus-year career as a senior athletic administrator, at least three conflicts with women's athletic department personnel resulted in legal action.

After current Yale women's basketball coach Chris Gobrecht, Hart's first female hire at FSU, resigned in 1997 one year into a five-year contract to coach at USC, Florida State sued for breach of contract and Gobrecht countersued with a Title IX suit.

Gobrecht declined comment citing a settlement.

In January, Hart was named alongside Alabama president Robert Witt, athletic director Mal Moore and the school's board of trustees in a civil lawsuit by former cheerleading coach Debbie Greenwell.

Greenwell was fired in February of 2009 after 22 years at Alabama. According to The Birmingham News, on what would be her final day on the job, Hart presented her a letter stating:

"Based on the information that we have obtained in an ongoing investigation, we are concerned about your conduct and poor judgment in dealing with University property, funds, authority and other important aspects of your job."

In July 2011, Greenwell filed a civil lawsuit for gender discrimination and wrongful termination after receiving a right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. On the same day, she was arrested and charged with one count of theft of property in the first degree and two counts of ethics violations as a public employee, according to The Birmingham News.

In January, Greenwell re-filed filed her lawsuit to include defamation, slander and libel as a result of Alabama requesting the Tuscaloosa County district attorney seek an indictment of financial malfeasance, according to Greenwell's civil complaint. Hart was again named alongside Witt, Moore and the school's board of trustees.

Then there is Debby Jennings.

Tennessee's former associate athletics director for media relations is pursuing a claim with the EEOC for her alleged forced retirement in May.

In a letter to UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek on May 18, Jennings' attorney David Burkhalter claimed an ultimatum to retire or be fired was retaliatory and discriminatory.

The letter, which states "the men above (Jennings)" were responsible for an atmosphere of "increased hostility, harassment, curtailment of responsibilities, isolation and other forms of retaliation," mirrors verbiage used in Graf's letter to the editor and Greenwell's civil complaint.

In a statement issued the day after Burkhalter's letter was delivered to Cheek, Hart said Jennings was "insubordinate, disrespectful and fostered an atmosphere of negativity and division" and that he "gave her the opportunity to retire instead of being terminated, and she chose that option."

Jennings' complaint remains open-ended. A filing with the EEOC is expected, while a possible civil suit remains. She declined comment through her attorney.

Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/BFQuinn

Get Copyright Permissions © 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 124

ChurchHillVol67 (Inactive) writes:

Why does GVX continue to report on trash!!!!!! Go cover FSU!!!! SMDH

Ironcity writes:

Typical. Her softball team drove in one tenth of one percent of the revenue but she wants twenty percent of the proceeds. Quit your griping and be happy for what you got. For many of these years nothing was gained by FSU when your team played. Many women received a free education and you received a fair compensation and for that you should be happy but since you were not paid or revered like Bobby Bowden you whine and cry. Give it a rest. When someone pays $75 a ticket to see one of your softball teams games then maybe you will have something to cry about.

Rumblefish writes:

Mixed messages from those who worked with him at FSU makes Graff's statements seem like she has an agenda or sour grapes over some argument they had way back whenever.

If the entire women's department at FSU were saying he was sexist...then it would be a different story.

mdvol writes:

If Joan Cronan says you're cool....then you're cool.

Sounds like it's 99-1 in favor of Hart. Why would KNS waste space on this article???

When is the first scrimmage with stats?

VOLS hang 100 in their first 2 games.

smokedoctor writes:

Well, my donations may as well go to a porno site, See ya!

keepitreal4vols writes:

Well, can't please them all. 4 unhappies and 1000s satisfied. Surprisingly, thats the same ratio of trolls to Vol Fans on GVXtra message boards.

Caneoverthere writes:

Never trust a Nole! Just kidding.

papavol writes:

in response to Rumblefish:

Mixed messages from those who worked with him at FSU makes Graff's statements seem like she has an agenda or sour grapes over some argument they had way back whenever.

If the entire women's department at FSU were saying he was sexist...then it would be a different story.

sour grapes is exactly what it seems to be, IMO.

AlexAndersonAAradio writes:

The more I hear about Hart the more I love him. This article is just more proof that he is in charge and no one else? Didn't sometimes seem like fans made decisions for Mike Hamilton? Well not anymore....

When you look at the success FSU softball had under Harts leadership you would have to be nothing but a miserable, pot stirring, trouble maker to complain about the AD if you were the head coach. That's what this woman is and I would almost bet money that the Jennings lady (who is just like her) put her up to this. Enjoy life you left wings while our athletic department finally gets put together right.

ONUV writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

joebob1111 writes:

Quit whining people. Hart is the right man for the job. And budgets for women's sports have gone up under his watch.

Rumblefish writes:

in response to ONUV:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Thanks for that image....right before I go to bed. Jerk.

RoadTrip writes:

Actually I am glad to see the more militant elements mad at Hart. A women's softball coach, no matter how good, contributes next to nothing to the financial health of an athletic department. Hart got sideways with the new Prez at FSU. It happens. He moved on and did a good job at Bama despite the troll's comments. Numerous reports about how good he is at the job were given from Bama and FSU sources. Don't know the Jennings issues. Do know that the departments were consolidated like has been done at every major university in America other than Texas. So I am assuming Graf is referring to Jennings not being retained. Maybe he didn't think she did a good job or had the ability or desire to change to his way of doing things? He has that right to terminate her - he is the boss and this is a Right to Work state.

RoadTrip writes:

in response to ONUV:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Well alrighty then. Mystery solved.

RoadTrip writes:

in response to ONUV:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

GiveHim6TDTennessee writes:

Alabama > FSU. Pretty simple math.

bigfan865 writes:

Bodean...you are an idiot. Everyone in FL has not thought poorly of Hart!
You just want to be all knowing with everything don't you?
FYI, a long time friend has a niece on the women's basketball staff at FSU. That niece told her TN was lucky to get Dave Hart.
So put that in your pipe and smoke it!
You are a pathetic troll always making up your own "facts". Maybe you should become an assistant to John Adams. Together you could write some interesting stuff.

Rumblefish writes:

in response to RoadTrip:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

TommyJack writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Still on the payroll, huh?

UTKpremed writes:

lol

farmdog (Inactive) writes:

in response to ONUV:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

crappieking writes:

Hart could be a fraud. After the upcoming 5-7 or 6-6 season, we will see if Hart will step up to the plate, and fire Dooley and go after a well known Proven coach. Not someone that is 4-12 in the SEC. God, what has happened to us?

Voluvr writes:

Congratulations on your success, but until you can get 90,000 people to travel on Saturday to watch a girls softball game...chill out.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

You won't always be liked, and if UT's fb team turns it around I could care less if women's sports falls off..Let's face it without Pat Summitt UT will never repeat as NCAA champions, and if they do 8 trophy's will never be matched..Just a thought.

Texassean writes:

Very well written and sourced article. Wish JA could write a piece this thoughtful!

joshbump writes:

seriously, the only way they will stop is if we stop reading. boycott time.

AlexAndersonAAradio writes:

It was a much better wrote article than most articles when the author has an agenda.

stumpy writes:

I was at FSU while Hart was there. FSU built new state of the art softball and soccer (women's only, no men's program) facilities while I was there. He was a very good AD and made some really good coaching hires (Sue Semrau to start). His falling out with T.K. (then president) is that he wanted Bowden to go earlier than it actually happened. He needed to go, but would not pull the trigger. Dave Hart was pushing the powers that be to force his hand a bit. T.K. was a football player for Bowden and it just did not fly. However, Hart left and Bobby and T.K. were out the door before it was shut.

RoyMullinsfromvolquest writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Actually, they didn't want to see him leave.

keepitreal4vols writes:

in response to ONUV:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

She's got a paper clip stuck in her tooth!!!

RoyMullinsfromvolquest writes:

in response to keepitreal4vols:

She's got a paper clip stuck in her tooth!!!

He does have the "Bama bangs" thing going for him.

rogersparent writes:

Oh, to long for the "old" and real Knoxville Journal... They would have really taken on this story. I have never read a story so full of fear to investage.... fear to report. The KNS certainly knows where their bread is buttered. UT contributes millions to newspaper. They are not about to bite that hand... Whatever happend to "give people light and they will find their own way". This light is very dim.

chbradshaw writes:

She is certainly not just another pretty face

http://www.seminoles.com/sports/w-sof...

It's funny how the Debby Jennings and JoAnne Grafs of the world seem to have such a masculine look.

I am highly offended at the concept of a doctor of P.E. That is an insult to anyone who is a real doctor. We may as well start calling bartenders "doctors." "Doctor, can I have another gin and tonic?"

As for Dave Hart, if this mush mouth and Debby Jennings are against him, he has my full support.

ALL_VOL75 writes:

when asked to comment on this article Hart said "In the words of my good friend Jay Z...I got 99 problems but a _itch aint one..."

UTistheOLEMISSoftheEAST writes:

in response to ALL_VOL75:

when asked to comment on this article Hart said "In the words of my good friend Jay Z...I got 99 problems but a _itch aint one..."

Actually that's not true. He still has to deal with a pathetic football coach.

tandemonium writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I am in total agreement with you! These women who have filed and re-filed lawsuits which name Hart, did so because something was very wrong and they want it made right. UT should have been more careful in hiring Hart, but it seems they never gave it a thought nor researched his record. I certainly don't think any of these women are wrong about him, and I hope all of them win their cases. UT Athletic Dept and the search team will one day be held accountable for this risky hire. Go get him, Ladies!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Only in gossip columns. I don't know anything about Hart and don't need to. I can't argue that it's not good news? BUT I can argue that it's not sports. It's a story that can mess with UT though.

I have sympathy for all women in sports. They don't get the crowds. I also have sympathy for baseball and wrestling and track??

The point is I guess that all this is UT's upper management's problem. Why should we even know at this point? I tire of news agencies trying to build(or defend) civil cases in the news. This perhaps belongs in the courts. Who really knows? The women involved here might have ligit complaints? I'd hate to think that a false or true problem of this order was solved in a gossip column. Let's talk about it later when the facts(whatever that is) are common knowledge.
The sad part to me is that these type stories often end up being headlines everywhere.

I did read this article however and don't feel any guilt for doing so. I just don't put any faith that there is a real story at this point.

Sorry KNS I'd rather read a good heart warming UT sports story. A "feel-good" story for a change.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to tandemonium:

I am in total agreement with you! These women who have filed and re-filed lawsuits which name Hart, did so because something was very wrong and they want it made right. UT should have been more careful in hiring Hart, but it seems they never gave it a thought nor researched his record. I certainly don't think any of these women are wrong about him, and I hope all of them win their cases. UT Athletic Dept and the search team will one day be held accountable for this risky hire. Go get him, Ladies!

Show us the proof?? I hope Hart sues you two. At least in court if you're correct you'll have to prove it. Instead of just going along with something because it puts UT in a bad light? I don't understand the need for your comments. Let the courts decide.

RockyTopVolFan writes:

Her allegations are a swing and a miss.
Next batter!

oldeasttenn writes:

Are all womens coach's crybabies. Move most womens sports to Club sports where they belong.

GreerVol22 writes:

Sometimes the best man for the job is a woman..sometimes it ain't. Hart will comply with Title IX because he has to. Budgets are tight and emphasis has to be given to sports generating the biggest return. First rule of sports management is economics...no cash flow...no success. If he doesn't fix football there will not be a womens program...of any kind. So all you ladies that think you are being treated unfairly...wait to see what happens to your salaries with a couple more 5 win seasons.

volnsc writes:

While you can't please everybody all of the time, this could be a major source of embarrassment in the future if even a whiff of it is true. See how the current and pending lawsuits go and then call the shot. This style of management is not effective in the long term and on occasion is simply used to show superiors that some actions are being taken. Change for the sake of change seldom solves anything.

Tennball writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Actually, yes I have. My roots come out of Tuscaloosa and, even though I have never actually lived there, it was the birthplace of my parents and all their family and many have worked for the University and still call Tuscaloosa home. When Hart came to Tennessee, several commented that we really got a good one but we could have the assistant coach that went back to them as he wasn't so good. I never heard a bad word on Hart before or after he came to Tennessee. For all appearances, the paper has given credibility to a disgruntled individual. Her comment; "I had to fight for everything that our softball program got down here, it was like nothing could be handed to us." could easily be changed to; "I had to defend everything that our softball program got down here, it was like nothing could just be given to us." and he would simply be doing his job.

punkin writes:

in response to ONUV:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Who is that guy?

FearTheVols1252 writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yeah, ok... apparently everyone in the state of Florida had all this insight on Hart, but they didn't have enough brain cells to avoid hiring an assistant coach involved in recruiting scandals.

ccjensen writes:

Her former athletic director was "threatened by strong, independent women."
--------------------------------
I generally consider myself a strong women's advocate, not that anybody cares, but I will say when I hear this "strong, independent women" line, it always scare me.

Over the years, I've known a few self-described strong, independent women types. Attila the Hun would cower from working with them.

Now, Graf, may be an excellent coach and a great person, but anybody that self-describes themselves in this way is a little bit scary.

Pat Summit is a strong, independent women, but I doubt that how she would describe herself that way. In short, I don't have a problem with strong, independent women....but I'm always concerned about women that describe themselves as strong, independent women--it speaks to an attitude.

Now, Dave may well have problems with both real strong, independent women as well as the self-described ones.

He wouldn't be the first person involved in athletics and jocks who have some hangups about females. Some strong, independent males think females are human speed-bags and go ballistic when a women have the temerity to express an opinion. I don't know if Dave has this problem, but if he does....he needs to move on---we have enough problems already.

CrankE writes:

Sounds like John Adams is still bitter about the Debby Jennings dismissal. Get over it John. Majors isn't coming back, neither is Debby.

TommyJack writes:

Bodeane once hitch-hiked into Gulf Shores. That's the closest he's been to FL. His stuff comes direct from his cubicle at KNS. Always has.

BigOrangeFever76 (Inactive) writes:

in response to ONUV:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Don't hate her because she's beautiful.

ccjensen writes:

oldeasttenn writes:
Are all womens coach's crybabies. Move most womens sports to Club sports where they belong.
-------------------------
LOL, still bitter about Title IX, eh? If Tennessee didn't have women's sports, we would retire the trophy for athletic bottom feeders.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features