Florida International U

The player has graduated. The coach is fired. The school and the lawsuit remain.

Team captain Destini Feagin on the cover of FIU’s 2015-16 pocket schedule. Feagin’s attorneys allege in her lawsuit then-head coach Marlin Chinn used Feagin on such materials because of his physical attraction to her.
Team captain Destini Feagin on the cover of FIU’s 2015-16 pocket schedule. Feagin’s attorneys allege in her lawsuit then-head coach Marlin Chinn used Feagin on such materials because of his physical attraction to her. dneal@MiamiHerald.com

Destini Feagin graduated from FIU with a degree in liberal studies in May.

The FIU women’s basketball coach, Feagin said, pursued her sexually throughout her senior season. Marlin Chinn was fired last March.

Still with FIU, however, is the civil lawsuit Feagin filed in U.S. District Court against the school for sexual discrimination under Title IX and common law battery.

“Destini hopes that the filing of this suit will prevent future female athletes from being sexually exploited and harassed, not only at FIU but at every academic institution in the nation,” said Elizabeth Parker, one of Feagin’s attorneys.

FIU declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The suit originally included claims for negligence; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent hiring; negligent supervision; and negligent retention. Also, it included as defendants Chinn; athletic director Pete Garcia; senior associate athletic director Julie Berg; the school’s Title IX coordinator Shirlyon McWhorter; then-women’s basketball assistant coach Tiara Malcolm, now Chinn’s replacement as head coach; and FIU president Mark Rosenberg.

Feagin’s attorneys whittled the defendants list down to FIU. Both sides’ attorneys await a ruling on FIU’s motion to dismiss the suit with prejudice.

The school’s attorneys argued in its motion that Feagin’s claims “are factually and legally untenable. Further, because Plaintiff has had two opportunities to state her claims but has failed to do so, dismissal with prejudice is appropriate.”

Feagin’s side responded by asking the court to proceed only on the Title IX and battery counts. The latter count refers to the “unwanted sexual advances and touchings” by Chinn that Feagin says went on during the 2015-16 season.

“Coach Chinn’s sexual exploitation, harassment and sexual assault of Destini deprived her of the ability to develop her full potential both on and off the court and significantly impacted her future,” Parker wrote in an e-mail to the Miami Herald. “FIU is a public university that receives federal funding. The university was made aware of the sexual harassment. Coaches witnessed Coach Chinn’s treatment of Destini. No immediate action was taken by FIU to stop the exploitation and harassment as is required of them by federal law.”

Though FIU fired Chinn two weeks after Feagin took her allegations, text messages and a recording of Chinn admitting his attraction to her to FIU athletics, the school made sure to state that Chinn was fired for loaning Feagin $600 when she needed to settle a tuition debt.

That NCAA violation allowed the school to fire Chinn with cause, thus saving the school the balance of his five-year contract (at least $644,000), without addressing Feagin’s allegations. In fact, the school allowed him to coach the Senior Night final home game two days after Feagin says she told FIU athletics of the harassment.

Feagin was suspended for that game after unauthorized use of teammate Kristian Hudson’s Athletic Panther Bucks card. She put the $349 back in Hudson’s account on March 1, but was still arrested May 2 on charges of credit card fraud and grand theft. She entered a deferred prosecution program.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal

FIU came close to pulling off the biggest upset in women's college basketball in years, but the 2-11 Panthers fell to Western Kentucky (11-2 this year, 41-7 the last two years) 71-69 at FIU Arena on Jan. 8, 2016.

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