Former SC State women’s basketball coach receives 6-digit payout after lawsuit
ORANGEBURG, S.C. (WCSC) - A former women’s basketball coach at South Carolina State University has gotten hundreds of thousands of dollars from South Carolina’s Insurance Reserve Fund after she sued the school and its former athletic director earlier this year.
In the lawsuit filed in March of 2022, former coach Audra Smith accused SC State and former Athletic Director Stacy Danley of breach of contract, defamation and negligent hiring and retention, among other complaints.
Circuit court documents state Smith’s termination letter states she was fired in February of 2022 because she exceeded the amount of scholarships in her budget and because she refused to follow gameday COVID protocols.
She disputes this.
“Plaintiff had over twenty-five years of experience coaching basketball at the college level – fourteen years as a head coach – prior to starting with Defendant SC State,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff has performed her job duties for Defendant SC State in a competent if not more than competent manner throughout her employment. Despite this, Plaintiff faced arbitrary obstacles throughout her tenure as a result of wrongful actions by Athletic Director Stacy Danley.”
The suit claims Smith wasn’t allowed to prepare the basketball budget and her budget requests were often unreasonably denied, and it says Smith got no formal notice that she ever violated her budget, whether for scholarships or hiring coaching staff.
As for the gameday COVID protocols mentioned in the termination letter, the lawsuit alleges the protocols Danley sent out did not include any information on gameday management.
The suit states Smith was suspended after a player’s parents were spotted on the floor of the basketball court and were not authorized to be there.
“On Feb. 19, 2022, prior to the start of a women’s basketball game, Plaintiff was told that two parents were on the floor level of the Court when they were not supposed to be. Parents were on the floor to see their daughter honored on a senior night,” the suit states. “Gameday management is not one of Plaintiff’s job duties and it was not Plaintiff’s responsibility to ask the parents to move from the court. Nevertheless, Plaintiff was issued a pretextual three-day suspension based on this relatively minor issue. Danley cited the COVID Policy as the reason for the termination even though that policy said nothing about gameday management.”
Smith also alleges in the suit that Danley’s actions prevented her from being successful in her contract and that the school knew or should’ve known Danley needed extra supervision based on his conduct at Alabama State where he worked previously.
The suit accuses the defendants of firing Smith before the end of her contract without just cause, which the lawsuit alleges is a breach of contract.
Documents show the state’s Insurance Reserve Fund gave Smith the $250,000 payout last month.
In response to the payout, a spokesperson for SC State released the following statement:
The matter has been amicably resolved between the parties. The Defendants did not admit any liability in the matter.
Smith’s legal team said she is now the vice president of the nonprofit fund Play4Kay and released this statement:
Audra and I cannot comment on the specifics of how her lawsuit with SC State University ended. She asked me to pass along that the time she spent at South Carolina State will always be special to her and she will always cherish the relationships she developed with her players, students at large, faculty, staff, the coaches and alumni she encountered, as the Bulldog family is made up of a very special group of people. She hopes in some way she made a positive contribution.
I can also report that she has moved on and is currently engaged in fulfilling work as the Vice President of Play4Kay a subsidiary of the Kay Yow Cancer fund which is a non-profit fund established in honor of famed women’s basketball coach Kay Yow that’s mission is to support advanced research to extend and improve the quality of life for people battling cancer. You can learn more about the fund and Coach Audra Smith’s current work at https://kayyow.com/coach-yow/about/.
Smith had been a head coach for 18 seasons. She spent nine years at the University of Alabama Birmingham and five seasons at Clemson before heading up the Bulldogs’ program.
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