Sports

BC’s former women’s soccer coach alleges the school discriminated against her. Here’s what to know.

School officials say they received complaints from student-athletes over allegedly improper conduct from Alison Foley.

Alison Foley, the former coach of the Boston College women's soccer team, as seen in 2019. Jonathan Wiggs /Globe Staff

Former Boston College women’s soccer coach Alison Foley is suing the school, alleging the college discriminated against her due to her gender and retaliated against her for leveling complaints over gender inequities in the school’s athletics programs prior to her resignation in 2018.

After over two decades in Boston College sports, Foley stepped down from the job after a stellar 14-5-1 season, when the team ranked in the national Top 20, according to The Boston Globe.

But a lawsuit filed in Suffolk Superior Court last year alleges Foley was told she could either resign or be fired after school officials said they received complaints from student-athletes about allegedly inappropriate conduct by Foley, which she denies.

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“BC chose to fire a great coach because she advocated for gender equality on behalf of herself, her program, and her student-athletes, in an effort to silence her and others who might bring concerns forward,” the lawsuit reads.

The Heights, Boston College’s student newspaper, first reported the lawsuit — filed in November 2020 — earlier this week.

Here’s what to know:

What Foley alleges

In her complaint, Foley alleges the school evaluated and treated her differently than male coaches, according to the Globe.

The lawsuit states the college’s former athletic director Martin Jarmond, in 2018, set higher job expectations for Foley than he did for men’s soccer coach Ed Kelly, who retired the following year, the newspaper reports.

Jarmond allegedly required Foley to make sure the team finished its season in the top half of the Atlantic Coast Conference standings, qualified for ACC and NCAA tournaments, and that the women’s soccer program raised $25,000 to fund locker room upgrades — standards that Foley claims she met or exceeded, the Globe reports.

Additionally, Foley helmed her team as it was awarded the college’s Devlin Cup — given to a team whose athletes live out the college’s community service-based mission — for two consecutive years in 2017 and 2018.

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In the course of her career at Boston College, Foley, hired in 1995, led teams to 15 NCAA tournaments and to the Final Four once, the Elite Eight three seasons, and eight times to the Sweet 16, with an all time record of 280-145-39, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit also alleges Foley was retaliated against after she pushed to be paid similarly to male coaches in 2015.

Foley was the only coach in the Atlantic Coast Conference at the time who was not employed on a multi-year contract, the lawsuit alleges.

“The then athletic director, Brad Bates, told Coach Foley that he supported the idea of a multi-year contract and wanted to provide one to her, but then indicated that she had to speak with Human Resources Director David Trainor to get the contract,” the complaint says. “Trainor strongly resisted providing Coach Foley a raise or a multi-year contract, despite having approved pay increases and multi-year contracts for male coaches.”

Foley then retained legal counsel and formally brought forward her complaint of unequal treatment, the lawsuit states. After that, the college awarded Foley a multi-year contract through 2018, Foley alleges.

When Jarmond was hired to succeed Bates in 2017, he showed “little interest in the women’s soccer program” and Foley was offered a one-year contract when the multi-year contract expired, which she accepted, the lawsuit alleges.

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In a meeting in the summer of 2018, Jarmond said Foley was on a “downward spiral with winning,” which Foley disputed, the lawsuit says.

Foley also told Jarmond, “We put a lot of time into our leadership academy and our community service and culture,” the lawsuit says.

“I don’t give a f*** about your culture … How do you think I feel being the only ACC AD without a championship?,” Jarmond allegedly responded.

In December 2018, Foley met with Jarmond and Trainor, where the latter said Foley would be let go because “the whole team” complained about her leadership, which Foley also disputes, according to the lawsuit.

The filing says Trainor provided her two examples, one in which she allegedly “pitted two players against each other.”

The other, according to the lawsuit, was that some players called Foley while she was home one night “and had concluded that she had been drinking because they thought that she had slurred her words.”

Foley learned during the meeting that a student had recorded the call — without Foley’s knowledge or consent, an apparent violation of Massachusetts state law — and the recording was shared with school officials, the lawsuit says.

According to the complaint, “it is possible” Foley had a glass of wine and was tired while speaking on the call but the lawsuit insists Foley was not drunk. The lawsuit also alleges male coaches regularly drink alcohol, sometimes in the presence of student-athletes.

Jarmond allegedly said Foley could resign or be fired. When Foley asked if she could think about and consult about her options, Trainor told her if “she wanted to go after them, BC would make it real ugly for her,” the lawsuit alleges.

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Thomas Newkirk, Foley’s attorney, told the Globe he contacted Boston College President the Rev. William Leahy to try to reach a resolution but was given the “cold shoulder” from the school’s attorney.

Newkirk also said Foley’s career has been ruined by what the college allegedly did.

His law firm, based in Iowa, has represented over 150 female coaches who “have been held to a double standard because of gender bias and stereotypes in how they are evaluated by both athletes and the administration,” Newkirk added.

What Boston College has said

According to the Globe, Boston College has denied Foley’s allegations, stating in court documents the multi-year contract it awarded Foley in 2015 was “a benefit that was not widely available to other coaches.”

The school did not renew the one-year contract in 2018 after her team “complained en masse” about her to administrators, the newspaper reports.

“Boston College did not renew Alison Foley’s contract because of complaints from student-athletes about her inappropriate treatment of members of the team, and she was informed of these issues when the season ended,” Boston College told the Globe in a statement on Wednesday. “She and her attorneys have made false charges about compensation and coaching contracts. The University denies that gender bias played any role in its decision, and will aggressively defend against her claims in court.”

Where the lawsuit stands

Suffolk Superior Justice Jackie Cowin rejected a motion last month from Boston College to dismiss the discrimination and retaliation allegations.

Cowin found, however, that the portions of Foley’s complaint that outline “generalized allegations about stereotypes and attitudes toward female athletes” were inappropriate and were to be stricken from the record, the Globe reports.

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The lawsuit remains ongoing.

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