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Kathleen A. Bull v. Board of Trustees of Ball State University

December 22, 2011

KATHLEEN A. BULL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF BALL STATE UNIVERSITY, JO ANN M. GORA, THOMAS COLLINS, PATRICK A. QUINN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Judge United States District Court Southern District of Indiana

ORDER

Presently before the Court is the Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss, [dkt. 67], which the Court GRANTS for the reasons that follow.

I.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure impose only a notice-pleading requirement for complaints. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8. Thus, "[s]pecific facts are not necessary; the [plaintiff] need only 'give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds on which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) (alteration omitted)) (per curiam). Nonetheless, "a complaint may be so sketchy that the complaint does not provide the type of notice of the claim to which the defendant is entitled." Airborne Beepers & Video, Inc. v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 499 F.3d 663, 667 (7th Cir. 2007) (synthesizing Erickson and Twombly). In that circumstance, a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is proper. A motion filed under that rule asks whether the complaint "contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). For the purposes of that rule, the Court will ignore legally conclusory allegations.

Id. at 1945-50 ("Although for the purposes of a motion to dismiss we must take all the factual allegations in the complaint as true, we are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." (internal citation and quotation marks omitted)). The Court will, however, give the complaint the benefit of reasonable inferences from all non-conclusory allegations. See id.

II.

BACKGROUND

The factual allegations contained in Plaintiff Kathleen Bull's Complaint are as follows. Ms. Bull began her employment with Ball State University ("BSU") as the head women's tennis coach in 1988. [Dkt. 1 at 4.] During her tenure as head coach, Ms. Bull had a successful and celebrated career. [Id.] She was also an outspoken and persistent advocate for gender equity in athletics under Title IX, regularly complaining to university officials and administrators about gender-related disparities in the treatment of student athletes and coaches. [Id. at 5-6.]

In May 2006, after the dismissal of another women's head coach who advocated gender equity, BSU Associate Athletic Director Patrick Quinn told another BSU administrator that "Kathy better be careful or she will be next." [Id. at 6.] Ms. Bull immediately reported the comment to BSU Athletic Director Thomas Collins. [Id. at 7.] No investigation or corrective action was taken. [Id.]

In April 2008, the Office of Civil Rights opened a Title IX compliance investigation of BSU. [Id.] The next month, Ms. Bull received her first negative performance evaluation. [Id.] According to Ms. Bull, the evaluation "imposed new standards of job performance not applicable to other BSU coaches, and ... characterized Bull's gender equity advocacy amongst her BSU fellow coaches as 'negativity within the department.'" [Id.]

In September 2009, Ms. Bull self-reported to Mr. Quinn a possible violation of NCAA rules arising from conducting a timed run for her team prior to the commencement of the 2009-10 season. [Id.] Mr. Quinn, along with the NCAA Assistant Director of Enforcement, NCAA investigators and outside counsel, subsequently interviewed Ms. Bull and the women's tennis team members. [Id. at 7-8.]

On October 19, 2009, Mr. Quinn prepared and submitted a written self-report to the NCAA setting forth seven alleged violations related to the women's tennis program, including one which Mr. Quinn characterized as "ethical." [Id. at 8.] The next day, Ms. Bull was informed "that she must immediately resign or be terminated." [Id.] Mr. Collins instructed Ms. Bull to immediately vacate her office and return all university property, and BSU President Jo Ann Gora sent her a letter informing her that she was under an "immediate paid non-disciplinary suspension. [Id.]

Afterward, "BSU, through Collins and others" issued a press release and made statements in various media that Ms. Bull was "fired" for committing multiple and serious NCAA violations. [Id.] Specifically, Mr. Collins told the Muncie Star Press on October 21, 2009, that "by 'firing' Ms. Bull 'we [BSU] moved in concert with the NCAA."" [Id.] At this time, the NCAA Committee on Infractions had not yet ruled on the alleged violations in the women's tennis program. [Id.] The next day, Mr. Collins submitted a letter to Dr. Gora entitled "Request to Initiate Formal Proceedings to Dismiss Professional Personnel Member During Term of Appointment," which at BSU constitutes a charge to commence formal termination proceedings before a hearing committee of faculty representatives. [Id. at 9.] In the written ...


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