Hiram Green's first public comments will air on an HBO segment about USF.
By ANTONYA ENGLISH
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 3, 2000
TAMPA -- Former South Florida assistant athletic director Hiram Green will make his first public statement this week on his investigation into racial allegations within the USF women's basketball program.
According to a copy of HBO's show Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel obtained by the Times Saturday, Green said in a statement that he gave athletic director Paul Griffin a detailed report of his investigation, which listed specific incidents of racially charged statements allegedly made by coach Jerry Ann Winters and former assistant coach Ron Gathright.
In a 12-minute segment scheduled to air 10 p.m. Tuesday on HBO, Green said he investigated players' allegations of racial discrimination at Griffin's request, then let Griffin know what he learned.
"In April 1999, I gave Paul a summary of my detailed notes about the specific incidents I was told of in the interviews," Green said in the statement. "This was under a cover letter in which I stated I thought the matter should be looked at more closely and dealt with as a serious concern so it could be solved in a constructive manner if possible."
Green also said, "I never told anyone there were no problems in the women's basketball program."
Griffin declined to speak with Real Sports, but he told the Times in an interview last week that he never received a written report from Green, saying all their correspondence on the subject was oral. He said to his knowledge, Green never wrote a report until late August or early September, which was at the request of the university's Equal Opportunity Affairs office.
As first reported by the Times, Green's investigation included interviews with former assistant coaches Staci Elias and Stephanie Canada, both white. As the HBO story points out, Green's final report is attached to a memo from Green to Griffin.
According to Green's report, Canada said Winters once said she didn't want black and white girls rooming together "because they smell different and their hair is different." Elias told Green that Winters said she was "not having any more dumb black athletes."
Winters denied those allegations.
"That is absolutely not true," Winters told Real Sports correspondent Mary Carillo.
USF lead attorney and outside counsel Tom Gonzalez told Carillo that Green never gave Griffin a written report.
"Paul Griffin did not have anything before him that talked about her making a comment that blacks and whites didn't room together because they smell different, okay?" Gonzalez said.
Carillo responded: "How is it, Tom, that this document never made it from Hiram Green's files to Paul Griffin's desk? Did it get lost in the shuffle?"
Said Gonzalez: "I don't know. I think it's something Paul Griffin certainly would have wanted to know about had it come in."
During interviews with Carillo, Winters denies charges that players were given rooming assignments on road trips based on race and during meals. She didn't deny that black and white players would sit in opposite areas in restaurants on trips, but she said it was by their choice.
Winters also said she sometimes used race to describe opposing players during film sessions, but not in a stereotypical manner.
For the story, Carillo interviewed seven of the eight players who have filed federal racial discrimination lawsuits against Winters and the university: Dione Smith, Charmaine Leslie, Avia Lee, Patrice Coleman, Tonya Gary, LaToya Ward and Tamekia Williams. Former player LaTonya Greer is seen on tape, but is not interviewed.
Carillo also talked with former women's basketball secretary Lisa Walker, who reiterates her claim that Winters once told her she didn't want to purchase a house where there were blacks because they neglect their yards and have automobiles on blocks. "It was really a flabbergasting kind of conversation," Walker said.
Winters was suspended in October after the university's EOA office found a reasonable cause to believe she retaliated against Smith for participating in Green's investigation. She is appealing.
Carillo asked the players what they would say to viewers of the show who might say "there is no overt racism by this coach."
"Unless you're in my shoes, unless you feel what I'm feeling, unless you see what I see, how can you say it's not there," Smith said.
Hiram R. Green's statement to HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel:
I am referred to in pleadings and in comments made about the recent lawsuits regarding the University of South Florida women's basketball team. My name is often mentioned as a potentially important witness. Because important rights of various individuals are affected by all of this I have deemed it inappropriate to make public comment until my testimony is given.
Under the advice of my attorneys I will only provide limited comments at this time to clarify certain points that are being raised in public and by the media.
I never told anyone there were no problems in the women's basketball program. When asked by Paul Griffin to find out about the problems I interviewed a number of people, keeping notes and making a report. A significant number of people then in the women's basketball program and who had previously been with the program believed there were problems. In April 1999 I gave Paul a summary of my detailed notes about the specific incidents I was told of in the interviews. This was under a cover letter in which I stated I thought the matter should be looked at more closely and dealt with as a serious concern so it could be solved in a constructive manner if possible. I still believe the same thing. I was not asked to participate in any further review or examination of the issues, so I am not personally aware of details of what Mr. Griffin or others may have or may not have found when they did whatever they did further. All of my memoranda and working papers have been made available to the university and my understanding is that all of that information, along with other material, has been made available to the public.
I respect the choice of anyone that believes they should seek redress in the courts. That is a legitimate path for those who believe it is the best way to protect or pursue their rights. However, lawsuits cast parties as adversaries in conflict. I personally prefer communication, healing and reconciliation. For that reason, I have chosen not to pursue any legal claims I am advised I may personally have. My role in this matter is simply to tell the truth when asked by the proper people in the proper venue.
Since my testimony has not been requested in any court proceeding to date, I do not personally believe it is proper for me to make any further statements, give press conferences or answer any further questions about the litigation. Discussions in the press of who said what when would not be fair to any of the parties. Therefore, I decline to publicly discuss the matter further. My personal comments are better suited to be given in proper proceedings where everyone entitled can ask the questions they require.
I have asked my personal friend and family attorney, Scott F. Barnett, Esquire, to serve as my spokesperson and answer any questions he can. Also, Mr. Steven Wenzel, Esquire, advises me on issues related to employment law and my status at the university. They are both available to speak to the press on my behalf.