Former San Diego State University basketball coach Beth Burns, 57, won her wrongful termination lawsuit against the university on Wednesday. She received a $3.35 million reward from the San Diego Supreme Court jury for whistleblower retaliation after she had complained about Title IX violations.
Burns’ termination came as a surprise in April 2013 when her team had just broken a school record of 27 wins in a season, and when the school had given her a contract extension through 2016-17 that paid her $220,000 per year plus benefits and bonuses. In her eight years of coaching the team, Burns had turned the program around. She coached SDSU to seven NCAA tournaments and she helped them reach the Sweet 16 in 2010.
She was fired in 2013 and was out of work for a year. She later took a job as an assistant coach at USC for $150,000 per year.
SDSU claimed they fired burns for two reasons: a video that revealed Burns elbowing her assistant coach on the bench during a game and an internal investigation that claimed she was mistreating her subordinates.
Burns’ prosecution won the trial based on claims that she was fired for complaining about equal treatment between the men’s and women’s basketball program.
“It’s been a long road,” Burns told reporters after the trial. “I didn’t waiver. I had the truth on my side. The strength I’ve gotten from my teams and my players who have been blowing up my phone and calling me day and night through this whole thing just reinforced every day that I was doing the right thing. You gotta fight. So if this gives the next person in line that courage, then it’s been worth it.”