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    USF aide alleges coverup

    Hiram Green says his boss told him to write that allegations of racial bias within the women's basketball team had been resolved.

    By ANTONYA ENGLISH and ROGER MILLS

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 1, 2001


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    Green
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    Griffin
    TAMPA -- Former USF assistant athletic director Hiram Green says he was ordered by athletic director Paul Griffin to write a letter that Green now says was part of a coverup of racial discrimination within the women's basketball program.

    During an interview with the St. Petersburg Times, Green produced documents he said chronicle an effort by Griffin to sidetrack an investigation of the charges.

    In a sworn declaration that will be added today to a federal racial discrimination lawsuit, Green said that on Aug. 10, 1999, he was called into Griffin's office and, in the presence of Edouard Piou, assistant vice president of human resources, was told to write a letter to the university's Office of Equal Opportunity Affairs, stating that the athletic department "had resolved the problem."

    "(Paul) said, 'I need you to write a letter to Edouard Piou and the EOA and say that everything was okay,"' Green said. "I was shocked. I said, 'What have you done since my investigation,' and I think he was a little bit put off. He said, 'Just write the letter."'

    As a result of that letter, the EOA office determined no action was necessary.

    Speaking for the first time since reports of the problems surfaced in August, Green said he followed Griffin's instructions because he feared for his job. Green said that he had no knowledge that any measures were taken to correct the problem and that he was not told of any developments by Griffin.

    Distraught at being ordered to write the letter, Green said, he walked out of Griffin's office and immediately sought advice from associate athletic director Lee Roy Selmon.

    "He came by my office and I could tell it was of deep concern," Selmon said. ". . . He was concerned about the request to write that particular letter. I did a lot of listening, more listening than anything. Hiram was dealing with that particular situation at that particular time and he probably needed time to think about it some more and come up with a decision he thought would be best in moving forward. I didn't advise him to go one way or another on it. I've known Hiram for a long time. I would characterize him as very concerned."

    Griffin said he "directed" Green to write the letter at Piou's request to conclude the matter. He denied that he instructed Green to write the letter against his will. He said Green was aware of, and actively involved in, steps taken by the department to resolve the matter.

    "(Green's allegations) are absolutely not true," Griffin said Wednesday. "He (Green) actively participated in those actions. I'm sure I directed him to respond to Piou's request. He knew what occurred, in terms of the training, the counseling with the coach, and the mandates for diversification of the staff."

    Piou said he was present at the meeting but could not remember Griffin telling Green to write that the matter was resolved.

    "He did not tell him in my presence," Piou said Wednesday. "If he did, I would have reacted to that. I don't know what coverup he's talking about. . . . If (Green's) statements are correct, it makes me look like I squashed an investigation."

    Griffin also said Green never told him he was disturbed about writing the letter to the EOA. But in a Sept. 8 memo obtained by the Times, Green wrote Griffin, saying, "I felt very uncomfortable with this letter because of my inquiries and investigation."

    Green said a former assistant coach first brought allegations of racism to his attention in January 1999. After more complaints from players and parents were lodged, Green was instructed by Griffin to investigate the allegations in March 1999.

    Green said from early on, it was clear Griffin didn't want to get to the truth.

    Green presented his report to Griffin on April 1, 1999, concluding that "there appears to be sufficient information and concerns to warrant a more extensive inquiry."

    After reviewing Green's report, Griffin drafted a new cover letter, titled "Some Suggestions." Its final paragraph read: "It would be my suggestion that you, as athletic director, follow up on these issues and arrive at an appropriate conclusion."

    "He wanted to be the person to do the investigating," Green said. "He said he was the one who wanted to do it. That was his line. In my cover letter, I said a more thorough investigation needs to be conducted in order to come up with a proper determination of the facts, which left it open for someone else doing the investigation rather than him wanting to be the person who wanted to do it.

    "Based on my report, there were serious racial problems in the athletic department (women's basketball program). . . . I think that based on that, on the fact that they had the information and could have made a proper decision, and based on my August meeting when they asked me to write something that wasn't necessarily true, I think, yes, there was a coverup going on."

    Since last August, USF has been hit with eight federal lawsuits alleging discrimination against black players in its women's basketball program. The first was filed by point guard Dione Smith, alleging that former coach Jerry Ann Winters violated her civil rights. Winters was fired in December after an EOA investigation found she retaliated against Smith by dismissing her from the team because of her participation in Green's initial investigation.

    The attorneys for Smith and seven former players are expected to file an amended lawsuit today based on the latest disclosures by Green. The amended complaint will include claims of a violation of the Ku Klux Klan Act, which prohibits conspiracy to commit civil rights violations.

    Green also said in his declaration that he briefed President Judy Genshaft about the seriousness of the allegations in August 2000, after he had been removed from the athletic department due to budget constraints. He said she declined to read the report at that time.

    Genshaft was not available Wednesday, but Jack Wheat, special assistant to the president, confirmed that the meeting between Genshaft and Green took place.

    Wheat said the president's office was not aware of Green's affidavit and stressed that Genshaft would rather not comment while the issue is in court.

    "We have not received (his statements) and it's important to remember that lawsuits are a way to resolve disputes about facts," Wheat said. "What we have here are disputed facts. . . . We are going to honor the legal process by appropriately responding in court. Before it's over with, there are going to be a number of file cabinets full of documents."

    Green, a former USF basketball player who has been affiliated with the school for 16 years, said he has been hurt by the scandal and the university's failure to promptly address the allegations. He said he fears retribution from the close-knit USF community.

    Green said he remained silent to allow USF officials time to deal with the matter. But he decided after a recent speech to a group of middle school children that it was time to clear the air.

    "When it's wrong, it's wrong," said Green, who is now the coordinator for advancement of alumni affairs in the health sciences department. "I have to be a person of integrity. I have to not just talk about it, I have to live it. As I was thinking about all the things that will happen, I said, 'I have to say something.'

    "I can't expect my kids to come after me, and whenever something is wrong, just don't say anything, and they know it's wrong. That's not integrity. . . . How can I talk in a speech about it and not live it. I've lost sleep. Now, I just have to say in my mind what it is. And whatever anyone else says, this is true. What I put down on paper and signed is what actually happened."

    Recent coverage

    Be honest about problems at USF (January 27, 2001)

    Report: Griffin actions proper (January 24, 2001)

    Fixing USF's blunder (December 21, 2000)

    USF still has big mess to clean up (December 15, 2000)

    For some former players, a sense of sadness (December 15, 2000)

    USF basketball coach fired in controversy (December 15, 2000)

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