Cynthia Cooper

After reading through the lengthy court documents of the Surina Dixon lawsuit against Texas Southern I couldn’t help but notice the name Cynthia Cooper.

I suppose we should all be pleased that a Houston judge dropped the hammer down on TSU while protecting the sanctity of Title IX and women’s basketball coaches everywhere by awarding Dixon $730,000 due to alleged gender discrimination and retaliation.


The ruling obviously exorcised demons for Dixon and damages the reputation of TSU, who has been no stranger to controversy after the school fired head football coach Johnnie Cole after revelations of NCAA violations under his watch following winning its first SWAC championship in 64 years.

But that’s not the story. The story is the administration wanting Cooper — who had a successful stint at cross town rival Prairie View before stepping down last May to accept the University of North Carolina-Wilmington job — to be the women’s head coach back in April of 2008 shortly after promising Dixon the position.

According to court documents, “Dixon was told by then incoming athletic director Charles McClelland that he wanted her to step down as head coach and take a position as the top assistant on the same staff as Cooper, who they wanted to be the next head coach.”

It was then intimated that if Dixon did not take the offer, she would be fired.

Cole, who the interim athletics director and football coach at the time, informed Coach Dixon that she had no choice in the matter, documents said.

It was also alleged that, “Then, Coach (Tony) Harvey (the men’s basketball coach) asked, “What if [Coach Dixon] received a 3-year guaranteed contract as the assistant and a salary of $90,000 a year?” Again, Dixon told them that she was not interested in the proposal.”

On April 18, while Dixon was recruiting in Raleigh, North Carolina, Cole informed her that Mr. McClelland was going to move forward with his plan to bring in along. Cynthia Cooper.

The plot thickens.

Surina Dixon

Dixon received a call from McClelland April 21 around confirming what Cole had mentioned earlier, informing Dixon that he was going to move forward with his decision to bring Cynthia Cooper in as the head women’s basketball coach.

Two days later Dixon informed him of the ultimatum that McClelland and Cole had presented. Dixon later informed school president John Rudley that she was not interested in stepping down to be Cooper’s assistant because “Cooper was on a four -year probation with the NCAA and those violations would follow her to TSU.”

In January 2008, the NCAA penalized Prairie View for NCAA rules violations committed by Cooper, reducing the number of scholarships for the team. The school was placed on four years’ probation for major violations in 2005–2006 that ranged from Cooper giving players small amounts of cash to various forms of unauthorized practices. Cooper also gave players free tickets to Houston Comets games, which is another NCAA infraction.

Dixon was also apprehensive that Cooper didn’t have a bachelor’s degree, less head coaching experience and it was possible for Cooper to “fire her within a week if she took the job as an assistant.”

Soon after, Dixon was informed that TSU was no longer going to go with Cooper and that it was going to sign her to her original contract, documents said.

After discovering this, it appeared the university never really wanted Dixon to be the women’s head coach. As soon as a marquee name surfaced, Dixon was viewed as dispensable. Only when Dixon rebuffed at the notion of Cooper moving in on her territory, did administration stop pursuing the Hall of Fame basketball player.

Texas Southern should be ashamed of themselves if this is true. How can a professional organization (and I use that pretty loosely in this case) be so sinister, deceitful, manipulative and flat out dirty?

You can’t run a college athletic department like a mom and pop shop. You can’t treat employees or potential employees the same as teenage fast food workers. You don’t make promises and then renege on them or strong arm personnel. Families, livelihoods and careers are affected as a result.

Remember when Grambling State head football coach Doug Williams said, “If we (SWAC) keep doing business the way we’ve done it, we are going to put ourselves right out of business” a few weeks ago?

I think this is what he was talking about.

About The Author

Kendrick Marshall

Editor for HBCU Sports, award-winning journalist, and a graduate of Jackson State University.

No Responses

  1. ETT

    Please use the same analogy to explain how Ms. Dixon was hired in the first place. She was coaching ninth grade and was doing a poor job at that. She had a losing record at lane and at Maryland Eastern Shore.

    Reply
  2. DCG

    ETT that maybe all well and true….but you still cannot go about business as it was stated in Surina’s verison of this suit…Once I see the whole case in which I see how the witnesses to this case testified then I will give you my final thoughts…in the meantime I am soooo disappointed in the actions of this administration on this matter.

    DallasCowboyGirl

    Reply
      • Nick Maijoi

        It’s misleading as to say that Cynthia Cooper was the center of the case which she was not. The center of the case was gender equity against her (Dixon) and the men’s basketball coach.

      • Kenn Rashad

        But the fact that TSU wanted to hire Cooper puts her at the center. If TSU wasn’t interested in hiring Cooper we are likely not having this conversation now.

  3. HLB

    I wonder what Cynthia Cooper would think if she saw this? I wonder if this borders on libel and slander?

    Reply
  4. DND

    If this case was about gender equity no one would know. I agree that the headline is misleading. The Coach Cooper was not at the center of the lawsuit, you just made her the centerpiece of the story. I get it! You want folks to read it but at the same time you were crafting the story you failed to really discuss why she won the suit. You failed to teach the important lesson of how discrimination comes in all shapes, sizes, and agendas. And clearly its not a crime or breach of someone’s rights to want arguably the best women’s basketball coach in the SWAC (at the time).

    Reply
  5. Kenn Rashad
    Kenn Rashad

    DND, it needs to be understood that the author of that post is simply giving his OPINION based on the facts that were presented. Cooper, was not the reason TSU lost that suit, but the fact that TSU officials wanted to hire her as coach puts her at at the center of the case. The author presented an argument he saw fit. You are more than welcome to present yours. I’d be happy to publish if for you. Just send it to me.

    Reply
    • HLB

      I think this is really stretching the journalistic license. There is no way to TRUTHFULLY spin that Cooper was at the center of this lawsuit.

      Reply
      • Kendrick Marshall

        Would you not say that TSU wanting Cooper as its women’s basketball coach wasn’t a significant part of the document as presented to the courts?

        I think one also has to factor in that in 2003 Cooper was interested in being TSU’s head coach, but the school chose not to go in that direction. So there is some history here.

      • HLB

        When Cooper was interested in the job in 2003 none of the present or recently dismissed persons was at the university. She wanted the job at TSU before she was even considered for the position at PV. She sought the position on her own. How does that impact this lawsuit?

  6. Kendrick Marshall

    DND,

    I understand that the lawsuit against Texas Southern was about alleged gender discrimination. If you wanted to read about that, a link was provided to that story as well as a link to court documents that goes into further detail about the entire scenario from Dixon’s perspective.

    However, I could not help but notice how prominently Cynthia Cooper was mentioned in the complaint. The school, which had already promised Dixon the head coaching position, later told her they were pursuing Cooper and wanted her to be an assistant.

    Cooper is a big name in the women’s basketball community, and TSU wanting her services with a coach already in tow, was a tremendously interesting layer to this whole case. To me, it overshadowed the gender discrimination complaint.

    That’s why I wrote the piece.

    Reply
    • Nick Maijoi

      To say it again, you pushed the truth in the case with the headline that she was the center of the case. Dixon was already pushing for her case with Cole way before McClelland got there and was trying to hire Cooper away from PV. Cooper is only mentioned to show that McClelland wanted her and had nothing to do with Dixon suing on the basis of gender equity.

      Reply
      • Kenn Rashad

        Nick, I think you are splitting hairs. The headline IS based on Dixon’s account in that court document. There was no need to “push” anything because it was Dixon who mentioned Cooper’s name. And when you consider the fact that a federal judge ruled in Dixon’s favor, one could argue that her testimony of the events as they occurred where accurate.

      • HLB

        I do not think Nick is splitting hairs…The author of this piece is guilty of sensationalism which is so popular AND in my opinion deplorable in what passes for journalism today.

      • Nick Maijoi

        If you go thru the document the name T.Harvey/Men’s basketball coach is mention 3 times as much than Cynthia Cooper’s. That’s where the center of the case is with the gender equity. Like it has been said in other post, your author pushed that headline to get more readers to the article. Just tabloid journalism.

      • Kendrick Marshall

        While it is true that Mr. Harvey was mentioned in the court documents, Cooper is the bigger name here.

        And add that to the fact the school wanted to pursue her even though TSU had promised the job to Dixon, made it more of an attractive angle in my opinion that nobody in the press mentioned during the coverage of that case.

        If you wanted to read about the gender discrimination/ gender equality angle, I provided links to a news story as well as court documents.

        Cooper was a prominent part of those court documents. She might have not been “the center” of the case but I felt that the school wanting her services as its women’s basketball coach couldn’t be overlooked. To me, that sort of overshadowed the real reason the suit was filed in the first place.

    • DCG

      Kendrick and the angle I see it was more about gender equity because the multiple times she mentioned wanting a multiple year contract along the lines of what the new men’s basketball coach had…and damn the alleged part it’s has now been proving to have been gender discrimination!

      Reply
  7. Nick Maijoi

    Mr Marshall I see that you like to change the words to fit you article but you even said in your response that Cooper was not the center of the case but you decided to use her as your lead headline for this story. Also you say that Dixon was promised the job when in fact she was actually hired for the position and not just promised it. Providing a link about the gender equity part of the case was just not enough because it was again the center of the case and that’s where the story should have taken us, not the tabloid version of it.

    Reply

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