Florida International U

FIU women’s basketball coach suspended after alleged sexual misconduct

Florida International University's Destini Feagin (21) gets ready to shoot during a basketball game against the Rice Owls at the FIU Arena on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016.
Florida International University's Destini Feagin (21) gets ready to shoot during a basketball game against the Rice Owls at the FIU Arena on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016. mocner@miamiherald.com

FIU women’s basketball team captain Destini Feagin claims first-year women's basketball head coach Marlin Chinn has been pursuing a sexual relationship with her much of the season.

Read Next

Feagin told The Herald she’s reported Chinn to FIU’s athletics administration, that she filed an NCAA complaint and that she unknowingly participated in a possible NCAA violation when Chinn loaned her $600 in December.

The university issued a statement Tuesday afternoon: “FIU is conducting an investigation into allegations made against coach Marlin Chinn. Based on the allegations, the university has suspended coach Chinn, pending the outcome of the investigation. Because this is an ongoing investigation, the university will not provide additional comments at this time.”

FIU plays at Alabama-Birmingham Thursday and Middle Tennessee State Saturday. The season ends next week — barring a series of massive upsets by No. 14 seed FIU — with the Conference USA tournament in Birmingham.

Chinn refused to comment on the allegations when reached by the Herald on Monday night, citing university policy.

FIU athletic director Pete Garcia was reached Tuesday afternoon and said all comments on investigations must come from the university. The department held a mandatory meeting Tuesday morning regarding sexual harassment and coach-player relations. Chinn wasn’t present, according to an FIU source, but his assistant coaches were.

Feagin, whose photo appears on the cover of FIU’s season schedule, said she filed an NCAA complaint Thursday afternoon. Feagin and her mother, Joi Nicholson, say they reported Chinn to Senior Associate Athletic Director Julie Berg and to Shirlyon McWhorter, FIU director of equal opportunity programs and diversity, late Thursday afternoon. Friday night, Feagin was scratched from the team’s annual Senior Night ceremony, in which all seniors traditionally participate.

In earlier text messages to the Herald, Chinn said Feagin missed Saturday’s game for a violation of team policy and her return was “to be determined.” Feagin said she committed the violation — using a teammate’s Panther Bucks card to buy food when her own was depleted — and Nicholson repaid the $350 owed Monday.

Feagin and Nicholson assert that Chinn suspended Feagin four games — the rest of the regular season and the first game of the Conference USA tournament, for which FIU holds the lowest seed — as punishment for resisting his sexual advances.

Chinn, 45, is in his first season at FIU, which is 4-23, after six years as a Maryland assistant coach. The team’s next game is Thursday at Alabama-Birmingham.

Feagin said that inappropriate remarks from the coach started soon after he joined the team.

“I noticed he had a sexual attraction for me when he started saying perverted things to me,’’ she said. “Commenting on my looks, my body, frame, my breasts, my behind. The way I smile. He would go into detail what his sexual thoughts were.

“He didn’t come out and say what his intentions were at first, but he gave me hints,” she said. “He said little things that alerted me. Then, he came out and told me how he felt about me.”

That happened in January, she said. Feagin showed The Herald screen shots of text messages she said were from Chinn (each screen shot from Feagin’s iPhone had “Coach Chinn” in the contact spot at the top of the screen.).

A series of texts stamped July 15 read: “Hey Sista!!! I ain’t seen u in a while!! Got to put my Good Eye on u!!” with four eye emojis.

A text stamped Dec. 18 read: “I want you to have so much more to offer ANYONE that wants to be a part of u after they get pass how good ur face and body looks!!!”

In late December when she needed to pay off a $500 debt on her FIU account before registering for a class that would keep her eligible, Chinn gave her money, Feagin said. She said she figured since the money was used for school registration, there could be no NCAA violation.

“He took me to the bank, gave me $600 in cash,” Feagin, 22, said. “I went to pay the debt on my account. The day after I received the money, he called me. I said ‘Coach, how could I ever repay you?’ I was thankful, showing gratitude, humbleness. I really appreciated that. He said, ‘You will pay me back. In other ways.’ He said that six times. It’s vivid in my head.”

Feagin said a few weeks later, the week of Jan. 18 as the team prepared for home games against Texas-San Antonio and Texas-El Paso, Chinn asked about her personal life. Feagin said when she casually complained about men, he replied with, “Oh, yeah, if I had it my way, you’d be my girl. If I was in school, you’d be my girl.”

After practice, Feagin said, she went back to Chinn’s office to clarify what he meant and he said, “I have sexual fantasies about you.”

She said during road trips she began receiving wee hours phone calls asking her to come to Chinn’s room; claimed he once grabbed her posterior in a hug the morning of the Feb. 6 home game against Middle Tennessee State; and once in front of assistant coaches, as she got on a bus, heard him say, “Oh, when you going to let me get some of that candy?”

“I had no candy in my hand whatsoever,” Feagin said. “At that point, I knew, these coaches know. They have to know. Maybe they’ll say something to help stop the situation. I felt powerless. I felt like I couldn’t tell anybody because he would use basketball against me. And he knew how much I wanted to play.”

A series of texts stamped Feb. 7 asked Feagin to go to the website “The 5 Love Languages” and “take this test and screen shot me your results!! Let me see what you working with!! Answer as HONEST AS YOU CAN!!!”

After Feagin e-mailed a statement to the NCAA, teammate Jade Cheek sent an e-mail to Feagin to use with the NCAA. Feagin shared it with The Herald:

“My teammate Destini Feagin is in a situation where it seems our head coach is trying to pursue a sexual relationship/encounter with her. ... I have caught him countless of times staring at Destini even before any of this happened. As a player I do not trust him anymore because I wouldn’t want a coach to do this to me. Other teammates and I have noticed this from coach and how he looks at her.”

Feagin recorded a long conversation with Chinn during which they discussed the card issue. Feagin thought Chinn knew she was recording it on her iPhone. She said she didn’t know Florida law requires both parties must be aware a conversation is being recorded.

On the recording, which Feagin shared with The Herald, Chinn is heard saying of himself, “Married. Kid on the way. Attracted to a woman I have, No. 1, no business being with because I’m coaching her. I’m putting everything on the line because of how I feel about you.”

During the same conversation, Chinn tells Feagin, “When you decide that we lay down together, I want you to want it more than I do. And I’m not going to force you to do that. But that’s how I’ve always been. I’m not going to push you.”

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

Related stories from Miami Herald