University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Holly Warlick and Lady Vols soccer coach Brian Pensky wrote letters recommending the firing of associate strength and conditioning coach Heather Mason.
Both coaches cited inadequate job performance, according to documents in Mason’s 90-page personnel file obtained Thursday through a public records request by the News Sentinel.
Mason, 39, is a co-plaintiff along with her immediate superior, associate athletics director for sports medicine Jenny Moshak, and former associate director for women’s strength and conditioning Collin Schlosser, in a U.S. District Court lawsuit. They accuse UT of discrimination and retaliation in a complaint filed on Oct. 11, 2012.
In a letter dated April 25, 2013, from UT senior associate athletics director Mike Ward to Mason, he told her “continued employment is no longer in the best interest of the University of Tennessee Athletics Department and your employment will be terminated effective June 3, 2013 due to unsatisfactory job performance.”
The letter adds, “coaches of the teams with which you work have concluded that their teams need a different strength and conditioning coach.”
An undated, unsigned and unaddressed letter from Warlick states she “lost confidence in Heather’s ability to deliver training techniques or motivate players” and claims “there has been no measurable or visual progression in quickness, strength and especially the areas or speed and agility.”
Warlick also states her players were not in shape following pre-season workouts with Mason.
In an April 24 letter from Pensky to Ward, the UT soccer coach mentions six bullet-pointed reasons for a change at strength and conditioning coach. Among them are “a lack of understanding of what high-level soccer players need in order to maximize their speed, power and explosiveness,” a “lack of foresight and planning,” and insufficient workout routines
and availability to athletes.
Warlick and Pensky, both in their first seasons as UT head coaches, also cited a lack of communication skills from Mason as a reason for dismissal.
According to a Feb. 25 letter from senior associate athletic director Donna Thomas, who is referred to as the “chief operating officer for the Lady Vols,” in her UT bio, to fellow senior associate athletic director David Blackburn, Warlick is said to have voiced concerns over strength and conditioning before the 2012-13 season concluded.
In 2010, Mason, Moshak and Schlosser filed a complaint with the university claiming members of the UT men’s athletic department received more favorable wages than women’s athletic department personnel for comparable jobs.
When the original complaint was filed in 2010, Moshak’s base salary was $90,993 and Mason earned $80,000. Since then, each received raises, earning base salaries of $102,500, according to the News Sentinel’s database of UT athletic department salaries. Schlosser was among 15 UT athletic department employees terminated on April 16, 2012.
Mason was hired as UT’s head women’s strength and conditioning coach in 2003 at a starting salary of $55,008.
According to personnel files, Mason received a strong ranking in her formal 2011 performance review filed on March 13, 2012. She scored a 21 out of a possible 25 points, rating her as “fully achieving and occasionally exceeding expectations.”
Mason received similar reviews over her 10 years in the UT athletic department. All reviews were conducted by Moshak. Mason was promoted to assistant athletics director for strength and conditioning in August 2008.
In Mason’s 2010 performance review, Moshak wrote, “She has solidified the Lady Vol Strength and Conditioning program as one of the top in the nation.”
No formal 2012 performance review results were included in the personnel files. According to UT spokesperson Margie Nichols it was determined no formal performance review for the 2012 fiscal year was necessary after the letters were submitted by Pensky and Warlick.
Nicholls said Mason will not receive a separation package as part of her termination.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn