Vivas says she never heard direct slurs

Former Bulldog coach tells jury she did not overhear innuendos.

June 25, 2007 

Lindy Vivas testified Wednesday she never was directly called a lesbian or overheard any conversations of homosexuality by Fresno State officials.

Vivas is suing the school for $4.1 million, saying her contract as the Bulldogs' volleyball coach was not renewed in 2004 because of her outspoken advocacy of gender equity and for her perceived sexual orientation.

Throughout her three days of testimony in her civil trial, Vivas said she felt hostility from male coaches and administrators.

"You may have been thinking that they thought you were a lesbian, but you never heard them say that or communicate that to you," said Fresno State attorney Dawn Theodora during her cross-examination.

Without evidence of direct conversation, Vivas' claims of unfair treatment lack credibility, Theodora said outside the courtroom.

"Unless they spoke out loud or verbalized what she thinks they thought, I don't think you can prove their thoughts," Theodora said.

Vivas' attorney, Dan Siegel, said there will be testimony that administrators referred to Vivas as a lesbian, alluding to the expected testimony from former women's basketball coach Stacy Johnson-Klein.

"It's sort of like asking an African-American who has been the victim of race bias, 'Has anyone ever called you the N-word,' " Siegel said outside the courtroom. "It would be pretty peculiar and unusual to expect Lindy to have heard these kinds of comments.

"I don't think anyone was stupid enough to actually call that kind of name or that sort of insult to their face. What instead happened is people made comments to people they thought they could trust their comments with. Stacy Johnson-Klein is the prime example."

Siegel is also counting on testimony from Fresno State softball coach Margie Wright, who is scheduled to testify today.

He said Wright will provide testimony that backs Vivas' claims of hostility in the athletic departments and "the overall bias toward women and Title IX advocates."

"And Margie will share her own difficulties [of] getting the support she needs from the university," Siegel said, "despite her standing as the most preeminent softball coaches in the United States."

In earlier testimony, Vivas said a 1995 radio show about Title IX hosted by Ray Appleton was "blaring and playing very loudly" from the sports information office. She said Appleton "insinuated things about us -- that we were gay." Appleton said in an e-mail that he never made such insinuations.

When Theodora asked about the talk show Wednesday, Vivas said in a tense voice: "They accused Margie Wright of sleeping with her players, and they're saying that's freedom of speech."

Theodora also continued to paint a picture that Vivas was uncooperative and difficult. Theodora provided evidence of Vivas' 2002-2003 evaluation written by former supervisor John Kriebs.

Vivas received a commendable evaluation but still complained, arguing her overall score had dropped significantly from the previous year when former supervisor and associate athletic director Diane Milutinovich did her reviews.

Milutinovich also has a similar lawsuit against Fresno State.

Former player Tiffany Bishop, who played under Vivas for two years, testified Vivas was a quiet coach who cared and treated her players like family.

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