South Fla. Racism Probe Criticized

Wednesday, November 1st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A player and a former assistant coach for South Florida's women's basketball team said Tuesday an internal report of racial problems on the team misquotes and misrepresents what they told an investigator.

The report was the basis for last week's suspension of coach Jerry Ann Winters, accused in a series of lawsuits of mistreating and segregating black players and retaliating against one who complained to university officials.

Former assistant Ronald Gathright, who left the team last spring, and sophomore player Aiya Shepard said the university's investigator misused their statements to justify Winters' suspension.

Winters is appealing and has criticized the investigation for ignoring witnesses that would have defended her.

In August, former player Dione Smith filed a federal lawsuit against the university claiming she was kicked off the team in April after reporting in 1999 that black players were being mistreated. The investigation ended when USF officials found problems on the team and ordered the coaches to diversity training.

Since Smith filed her lawsuit, five other players have also filed suit and a former secretary is backing the women's claims.

Appearing at Winters' attorney's office Tuesday, Shepard said her answers to the investigators' questions were misrepresented in the report presented to university administrators.

Gathright, who left USF in March, said he spent about two hours talking to investigators about long-standing problems between Smith and the coaches, but none of that was relayed in the report.

He said Smith was often disrespectful and belligerent toward the coaches and repeated attempts to correct her behavior did not change it. He said Winters didn't remove Smith from the team even when Gathright urged her to do so.

But Gathright said the investigator made it appear in her report that he supported the theory that Smith was kicked off the team only for the 1999 complaint and for later being disrespectful to Winters during a team bus ride.