South Carolina State University Settles with Coach, Who Brought Breach of Contract Lawsuit

Jan 13, 2023

South Carolina State University has settled a lawsuit initiated by former women’s basketball coach Audra Smith, who alleged that Athletic Director Stacy Danley and the school were liable for breach of contract, defamation as well as negligent hiring and retention.

Smith will receive $250,000 from the state’s Insurance Reserve Fund in connection with the litigation, which was initiated in March of 2022 after she was fired a month earlier because she exceeded the amount of scholarships in her budget and because she refused to follow gameday COVID protocols, according to a termination letter

Smith challenged the school’s for firing her for “just cause” in her complaint:

“Plaintiff had over twenty-five years of experience coaching basketball at the college level – fourteen years as a head coach – prior to starting with Defendant SC State. Plaintiff has performed her job duties for Defendant SC State in a competent if not more than competent manner throughout her employment. Despite this, Plaintiff faced arbitrary obstacles throughout her tenure as a result of wrongful actions by Athletic Director Stacy Danley.”

Specifically, she alleged that her budget requests were often unreasonably denied and that she received no formal notice that she was exceeding the budget.

Smith also challenged the claim that she violated gameday COVID protocols when a player’s parents were on the floor, arguing that she wasn’t responsible for gameday facility management.

“On Feb. 19, 2022, prior to the start of a women’s basketball game, Plaintiff was told that two parents were on the floor level of the Court when they were not supposed to be. Parents were on the floor to see their daughter honored on a senior night,” according to the lawsuit. “Gameday management is not one of Plaintiff’s job duties and it was not Plaintiff’s responsibility to ask the parents to move from the court. Nevertheless, Plaintiff was issued a pretextual three-day suspension based on this relatively minor issue. Danley cited the COVID Policy as the reason for the termination even though that policy said nothing about gameday management.”

In a statement, both sides declined to comment on the settlement.