United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. BRASHER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Adrian Ghioroaie-Panait (“Ghioroaie”) filed this
action against (1) Auburn University,  his former
employer, asserting discrimination and retaliation under
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42
U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; (2) Ralph Spry, the
head coach of the Auburn University Track and Field Program
(“track team”), asserting a negligent training
and supervision claim under Alabama law; and (3) Henry Rolle,
an assistant coach of the track team, asserting assault and
battery claims under Alabama law. This matter comes before
the Court on Defendant Auburn University's Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. 62) and Defendant Ralph Spry's
Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 63). For the reasons
stated below, the motions are due to be granted.
Spry, who is a black American, is the head coach of the track
team and has been employed by Auburn since the late 1990s. In
December 2013, Auburn hired Ghioroaie, a white Romanian, as
an assistant coach of the track team. Ghioroaie served as the
horizontal jump coach and coached some multi-events. During
his employment at Auburn, Ghioroaie was one of five assistant
coaches for the track team. The other assistant coaches were
Scott Richardson (white, American); Mark Carroll (white,
Irish); Knut Hjeltnes (white, Norwegian); and Henry Rolle
(black, Bahamian). Spry reported to Bernard Hill, a Senior
Associate Athletics Director and sports administrator to the
track team, who reported to then-Athletic Director Jay
who was hired by Auburn in 2001, was the assistant head coach
of the track team. Though Rolle was occasionally in charge in
Spry's absence, the assistant coaches reported directly
to Spry, and Rolle did not otherwise have any supervisory
assistant coaches for the track team sign one-year contracts,
which may be renewed on a continuing one-year basis at
Spry's discretion. Ghioroaie's employment contract
was renewed in 2014 and 2015, but Spry decided not to renew
Ghioroaie's contract in 2016.
Ghioroaie's Employment with Auburn
to Auburn, during Ghioroaie's time as an assistant coach,
he (1) demonstrated an inability to get along with the rest
of the coaching staff, his student-athletes, professional
athletes, high school and/or club coaches, and SEC officials,
(2) was insubordinate to Spry, and (3) committed multiple
NCAA violations. Ghioroaie disputes Auburn's
characterization—not necessarily the underlying
facts—of many of the events that took place during his
first verbal disagreement with Rolle occurred in March or
April 2014 when he and Rolle had a disagreement regarding the
team's travel to Atlanta for a track meet. According to
Ghioroaie, Rolle became angry in a staff meeting after the
competition and stood over Ghioroaie, making comments like
“[w]here I come from, we have ways of dealing with
someone like you.” Ghioroaie did not report this
incident to Human Resources.
months later in 2014, Ghioroaie's contract was extended
from August 1, 2014, until July 31, 2015.
was cited for an NCAA violation on April 23, 2015, for
improperly texting a recruit. He served a two-week recruiting
penalty for the violation.
16, 2015, Ghioroaie was involved in a heated argument with an
SEC official at the outdoor championships. After receiving
what he deemed a bad call from the official, Ghioroaie yelled
at the official at the event site and followed the official
into the hospitality area, continuing to yell at the
official. Though Ghioroaie was not formally reprimanded by
Spry after this incident, Spry verbally discussed the
incident with Ghioroaie.
than a week later on May 22, 2015, Ghioroaie got into an
argument with Donald Thomas, a professional athlete who had
permission to use Auburn's track facilities for training.
According to Ghioroaie, Thomas disrespected him and
disregarded his position and told Ghioroaie that he was not
going to “recommend Auburn to any jumpers that ask
any recommendations to come here since you have been coaching
at Auburn.” (Doc. 62-2 at 260).
August 10, 2015, Ghoiroaie's contract was again extended
from August 1, 2015, until July 31, 2016.
October 1, 2015, Spry held a staff meeting about recruiting
and the allotment of scholarships to recruits. During the
meeting, Ghioroaie and Richardson were involved in a heated
argument regarding a recruit. According to Ghioroaie, Rolle
then started a verbal argument with Ghioroaie that turned
physical. Richardson reported this incident as follows:
Coach Adrian Ghioroaie, in attempt to make a case for his
recruit, began arguing for a full scholarship and Coach Spry
let Adrian know that his recruit didn't meet the criteria
for a full scholarship and suggested that my recruit was just
as good and mentioned that I was not asking for a full
scholarship. Adrian then began to lash out, first at me. I
responded to Adrian and then he redirected his verbal assault
to other members of the staff, criticizing the collective
efforts of the staff in terms of work effort, coaching and
recruiting. Though there was no yelling up to this point,
Adrian's tone was very aggressive. This lasted maybe 5
minutes. He then began to strongly criticize Henry Rolle.
Adrian very aggressively went on to verbally attack
Henry's coaching, recruiting, and character. This lasted
for about another 10 minutes.
(Doc. 71-4). Rolle reacted by grabbing Ghioroaie by the
neck, which forced the other coaches to restrain Rolle. Rolle
then grabbed a tiger statue, lifting and waving it as if he
was going to strike Ghioroaie, and again, the other coaches
had to restrain Rolle.
reported this incident to Bernard Hill, a Senior Associate
Athletics Director. Hill subsequently met with and requested
written statements from each of the witnesses present during
the October 1 meeting. As a result of this incident, Rolle
was placed on administrative leave and suspended for two
weeks. In addition, he was denied the opportunity to receive
a bonus at the end of the year, he was required to complete
25 hours of community service and a six-month anger
management course, and he was not allowed to return to work
until Ghioroaie reported that he felt comfortable with him
October 8, 2015, Ghioroaie stopped by Spry's office to
comment on Rolle's discipline. Spry claims that he tried
to question Ghioroaie about his concerns with Rolle, and
Ghioroaie ignored him and walked away. Spry further claims
that he demanded that Ghioroaie return to his office and that
Ghioroaie refused to respond and left the facility.
Ghioroaie, however, claims that he never heard Spry's
requests and, therefore, was not insubordinate.
this incident, Ghioroaie was involved in a string of
additional verbal confrontations over the next several
October 30, 2015, Ghioroaie and Rolle were involved in a
verbal confrontation after Rolle observed Ghioroaie and a
group of recruits talking to a professional athlete who was
training at the facility. That kind of communication could be
an NCAA violation.
November 3, 2015, Ghioroaie was involved in a disagreement
with Spry regarding Spry's refusal to award one of
Ghioroaie's recruits additional scholarship money and his
general allocation of scholarships.
December 2015, one of Ghioroaie's student-athletes
expressed dissatisfaction about Ghioroaie to her high school
club coach. Ghioroaie talked to the club coach. The club
coach sent a text message to Spry about a “disturbing
call” in which Ghioroaie “pretty much call[ed]
[him] a liar.” (Doc. 62-6 at 147). The club coach
informed Spry that “in trying to talk to [Ghioroaie] I
have decided that I would never send a jumper or a field
event person his way.” (Doc. 62-6 at 148).
“I'm sorry I had to send this text but the man is
crazy.” (Doc. 62-6 at 148).
February 23, 2016, Ghioroaie and Rolle were involved in
another confrontation, which involved a dispute about who
could use an area on the track. Ghioroaie wrote a long,
detailed email to human resources about the dispute.
March 1, 2016, a student-athlete coached by Ghioroaie was
transferred to a different coach after she became upset
1, 2016, Spry and David Mines, a Senior Associate Athletics
Director, met with Ghioroaie to inform him that his contract
was not being renewed. At that meeting, Ghioroaie raised
concerns that he was being discriminated against and also
asked to say goodbye to the student-athletes on the ...