FIU fired head women’s basketball coach Marlin Chinn on Friday, two weeks after team captain Destini Feagin alleged season-long sexual harassment.
The school made sure to state in its release, however, that those allegations remain under investigation. FIU says Chinn’s firing with cause — saving FIU at least $644,000 over the remaining four years of his contract — came not over the allegations that Chinn pursued Feagin sexually.
Rather, the school says, he admitted to knowingly violating NCAA rules regarding athlete benefits.
Feagin told the Miami Herald that Chinn gave her $600 when she needed $500 in December to settle an FIU account before registering for this semester.
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Feagin said she didn’t know the transaction might be an NCAA violation. Section 6(e) in Chinn’s contract states he can be terminated with cause for an intentional violation of NCAA rules.
Feagin told the Herald she reported to FIU athletics on Feb. 25 that Chinn made continual sexualized comments about her build, then stated a desire to have sex with her. She said she showed administrators inappropriate text messages and played a recording of Chinn blatantly expressing his wants.
After Chinn coached FIU’s last regular-season home game on Feb. 27, the school suspended him the following week.
Assistant coach Tiara Malcolm served as interim coach for FIU’s last two regular-season games and its two Conference USA tournament games.
FIU finished 5-26 after a 76-44 loss to Marshall on Wednesday in the Conference USA tournament.
Without the allegations, the abysmal record wouldn’t have dented Chinn’s status at FIU. This season was expected to be a transitional one before Chinn’s first full year of recruiting.
The school says it will undertake a national search for a new coach. Chinn had been an assistant at Maryland for six seasons before FIU hired him on April 9 of last year.
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Other FIU coaches commented privately on the almost puppy-like energy Chinn, a 45-year-old father-to-be, and his staff brought to work. They bear-hugged social media. They let fans know their recruiting travels via Instagram and Twitter. Candid shots were common. Photos of South Florida, especially FIU, got the hashtag #UHaveToSeeThisPlace.
The NCAA got involved in the Chinn-Feagin situation when Feagin’s mother, Joi Nicholson, got involved.
Feagin said she had been receiving improper text messages and comments from Chinn all season, and he made his intentions clear to her in January.
When she used a teammate’s Athletic Panther Bucks card to buy $350 of food and toiletries, she was suspended from the team.
Feagin said Chinn informed her that she was suspended on Feb. 24 in a conversation Feagin recorded illegally. Unaware of the legality, she recorded the conversation, she said last week, because she felt threatened by Chinn and didn’t think she would be believed without more tangible evidence.
Nicholson said she knew nothing of the alleged harassment or suspension until Feagin told her on Feb. 25. Nicholson phoned the NCAA that same day over the alleged harassment and mentioned the $600. Later that day, according to Feagin and Nicholson, they told all to FIU athletics administration.