July 10 update: President’s message to the university community on Vivas case

The jury’s verdict yesterday reminds us again of how closely the entire community at large is watching us as we deal with the many issues involved in ensuring equity for women and men at the university, including athletics. While we don’t agree with the outcome, the message of the jury is clear and we do respect the judicial process. However, we do plan to appeal the verdict. Should we ultimately not prevail in our appeal, the award will be paid from a self-insurance fund administered by the California State University system.

It is incorrect to assume that Fresno State has been unaware of issues in its Athletics Department. It has been a long and painful process of discovery and repair. Our work in improving the operation of the Athletics Department has been ongoing. We are committed to creating a culture of compliance within a Division I program, where the core is integrity, and providing an outstanding experience for all student-athletes.

The process of getting where we need to be is sometimes not as smooth or as quick as we and the community would like. However, we are making important progress. We have put in place a new senior leadership team in athletics that is committed to gender equity and in delivering the excellence in athletics that students, faculty, staff and fans deserve. Athletics Director Thomas Boeh is completing a long-range plan for the department and a key component addresses the student-athlete experience and gender equity. The plan will be distributed this fall and will be a key part of our NCAA certification process, which also begins this fall.

Gender equity is not a term we use casually. We are committed to opportunities for women in athletics and throughout the University. Nearly 60% of our students are female, and over 51% of our employees are female. Our commitment to women’s athletics is evident in the increase in the participation of women student-athletes (139 in 1994-95 to 343 in 2005-06) and expenditures for women’s athletics (from $1.805 million to $10.3 million in same period). That progress is also reflected in a June 2007 Women’s Sports Foundation report that awarded Fresno State’s athletic programs a grade of “A” for the proportion of female athletes to the student population. www.womenssportsfoundation.org/binary-data/reportcard/reportcard.pdf

For the past two years, the Athletics Department budget has been balanced. This has not been without great pain and sacrifice by our athletics staff and coaches. Measures have been taken to create a balanced budget that gives the department stability and enables it to plan for the future. This fall the Commission on Athletics Financing will complete its work and develop recommendations for long-term financing of our program.

In addition, our compliance program has been strengthened and comprehensive policies and procedures are being put in place to assure we operate the program with the highest integrity. The Student Athlete Assistance Program has been revised to provide better education and counseling for student-athletes. Academic support services have been strengthened as the department responds to the Academic Progress Rate requirements of the NCAA.

I and the senior athletics staff recognize that there is still much work to be done and we will continue our efforts to provide quality educational and athletic opportunities for student-athletes. Fresno State is a great University experiencing its share of difficulties, but we are changing for the better and determined to deliver the excellence that our students and community deserve.


University Statement – Initial reaction to verdict- July 9

We’re extremely disappointed that the jury did not see that the university’s actions in this matter were based solely on Ms. Vivas’ job performance and her unwillingness to improve the volleyball program.

Coaches are not like other employees. Coaches have individual contracts with the university which provide them better benefits and other perks for their added responsibilities. Those same contract agreements also hold coaches responsible to meet certain performance goals. When those goals aren’t met, the university can choose not to renew or renegotiate contracts. That’s what happened in this case.

The excessive, and in some cases inaccurate, publicity surrounding this case in Fresno may have affected the result of this trial. The university believes this decision is wrong and will actively pursue an appeal of this case on a variety of grounds. No funds are paid until all appeals are exhausted.