Local News

UNC, Dorrance Settle Part Of 1998 Lawsuit Filed By Former Soccer Players

Posted March 23, 2004

— Part of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance -- and the school -- has been settled.

See Settlement Agreement

The lawsuit was filed by Debbie Keller and Melissa Jennings back in 1998. As part of the settlement, Keller gets $70,000 from the school and a written apology from Dorrance in which he admits engaging in talks of a sexual nature with players.

The coach also must attend training about UNC's sexual-harassment policy for the next eight academic years, on top of participating in a sensitivity program for the same amount of time. Under terms of the settlement, he must pay Keller $10,000 in any academic year that he fails to participate in the training programs.

In his written apology, Dorrance said he made his comments in jest and did not mean to offend anyone.

"I apologize to Debbie Keller and her family, as well as any other member of the soccer team whom I offended," Dorrance's letter said.

The part of the lawsuit filed by Jennings is scheduled for trial in October.

Six years ago, Keller and Jennings filed suit against UNC and numerous university officials, including Dorrance. The suit alleged a wide variety of claims, including assault, battery, interference with religious rights, interference with business expectations, constructive fraud, sexual harassment and invasion of privacy.

Keller further alleged that Dorrance made unwanted phone calls and physical contact that amounted to assault and battery.

The suit sought $12 million in damages and an injunction barring Dorrance from coaching.

"I continue to have complete confidence in coach Dorrance and the leadership of our women's soccer program," UNC Athletics Director Dick Baddour said.

"The University acknowledged six years ago, before this lawsuit was filed, that coach Dorrance had participated with members of the women's soccer team when some of those women were jesting or teasing team members about their relationships with men or sexual activities. He understands his participation in those discussions was ill-advised.

"At that time," Baddour said, "coach Dorrance and the university both took effective steps to address that issue, and coach Dorrance ceased to participate in those group conversations. Ms. Keller has made it known that his participation in those discussions made her feel uncomfortable, and for that coach Dorrance apologized."

Baddour said the complaints by Keller and Jennings are the only complaints of that nature made against Dorrance in his 25 years of coaching. He has led the Tar Heels to 18 national championships in that time.

The settlement with Keller was signed by UNC Chancellor James Moeser, Dorrance, Keller (who since has gotten married and taken the name Debbie Keller Hill) and Special Deputy Attorney General Thomas J. Ziko.

Keller, who played at North Carolina from 1993 through 1996, was national player of the year in 1996. Jennings was a reserve from 1996 through 1998.

Keller claimed in the lawsuit that Dorrance interfered with her attempt to win a spot on the 1999 U.S. national soccer team. Keller said she was dropped from the team in retribution for suing and that she lost income and recognition when the team went on win the 1999 World Cup.

The suit is pending in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. Keller and UNC reached a resolution of the matter on March 19.

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