JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Students at East Tennessee State University are calling for changes after the school released its Title IX investigative report on fired women’s basketball coach Simon Harris.
The report looks into a complaint that alleges two women’s basketball players were dismissed in December because they were in a relationship with each other, which violated a team rule according to Harris.
ETSU announced on Aug. 1 that it would fire Harris effective Aug. 15.
Students said they were really surprised to hear the news, and also very sad that players were forced to give up the sport they love when they were removed from the team.
“As a queer person that kind of bothers me,” ETSU student Kela Kidd said. “I’m glad I don’t play basketball.”
Kidd said she hopes this incident doesn’t discourage the players from pursuing their passion.
“I just know a lot of queer basketball players,” Kidd said. “They’re some amazing players. I just hate that. I hope they’re able to come back, but honestly I see why they wouldn’t come back because of that.”
Student Bee Graves works for the Pride Center on campus and expressed her sadness for the players involved.
“I’ve always been really accepted at ETSU so to hear that that happened to someone, it’s really sad for me,” Graves said. “If I was kicked out of marching or concert band, or anything to do with my passions because of being queer I think I would lose my mind.”
Some students worry that an incident like this could tarnish the school’s reputation, especially following other controversies.
Last year, the men’s basketball team kneeled during the national anthem, sparking both support and outrage, and ultimately the resignation of head coach Jason Shay. This year, Simon Harris and the women’s basketball team is in the spotlight.
“He didn’t seem like the kind of person who would do something like that,” student Zach Hamrick said. “It’s just really shocking, and it’s really sad for me because it puts a bad name on the university.”
Ultimately, students said they are glad that the university acted. Looking forward to the future, students said they’re hoping more preventative measures are taken in the future, whether it’s more diversity training for coaches or a different approach.
“I just hope that the university and the administrators are just made more aware that this kind of thing can happen to just about anyone, and to be more careful when they hire new coaches to make sure that nothing like this ever happens,” Hamrick said.