Former Louisiana-Lafayette coach wins suit over firing

Updated: October 19, 2007, 10:22 AM ET
Associated Press

LAFAYETTE, La. -- The first black head football coach at any major Louisiana university has won a $2 million judgment in a lawsuit claiming that the University of Louisiana at Lafayette fired him because of his race, not because his teams lost 80 percent of their games.

Jurors found that Jerry Baldwin's race wasn't the only reason he lost the job, but was among the reasons. University officials broke his contract and inflicted emotional distress through negligence, according to the jury of six whites and six blacks.

Jurors took nearly 10 hours to work their way through a complicated verdict form.

"There is no substitute for victory," said Baldwin's attorney, G. Karl Bernard. He said Baldwin appreciates the chance to air his grievances.

ULL attorney Steve Oats said the evidence doesn't support the verdict for Baldwin, who was coach from 1999-2001, but he and university officials haven't decided their next step.

"It is clear Jerry Baldwin was not terminated because of his race," Oats said. "Jerry Baldwin was terminated over his tenure. The team had a record of 6-27 and attendance was terrible. The program was not going in the right direction."

In closing arguments for the eight-day trial, Bernard said white coaches before and after Baldwin got new equipment and had a greater ability to market the football program via a coach's television show and through the university's marketing department.

Baldwin worked with used equipment, the marketing director was fired his second year on the job, and he never had a coach's show to promote the football program, Bernard said.

Oats said the same officials now accused of racial discrimination made the first black head coach at a major Louisiana university.

Jurors voted 10-2 to award Baldwin $500,000 for general damages, including emotional distress; $600,000 for past lost wages; $900,000 for future lost wages, and $2,676 for special damages.

The same administration officials now accused of racial discrimination are the same people who gave Baldwin the job as the first black head coach at a major Louisiana university, Oats argued.

He also said there are no signs that Baldwin's ability to get another job in coaching has been hampered by the firing, and Baldwin's attorneys did not present any evidence that he suffered extreme emotional distress.

Oats said Baldwin is now a minister at New Living Word Ministries in Ruston.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press