MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Cheryl Littlejohn, who was fired Monday as Minnesota's women's basketball coach, denied findings of a university investigation and called it an attempt by the school to avoid paying the remainder of her contract.
In a prepared statement Tuesday, Littlejohn said she had made mistakes "of a secondary nature," but did not tell players to lie and never interfered with witnesses, as the university has alleged in its investigative report.
"It is my belief that the report is biased," she said. "It is a pretext to terminate me and avoid paying the remainder of the salary due on my contract."
Littlejohn, who was in the fourth year of a five-year contract worth $101,800 annually, had a 29-81 career record and a 7-57 mark in the Big Ten.
She called the university's investigation, which was released Monday, flawed and said officials "intentionally forced student-athletes to choose between making untruthful statements regarding my conduct and potentially losing their scholarships."
She also claimed that she had been subjected to a hostile work environment and discrimination based on her Christianity.
"This intolerable situation led me to complain to the university's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action and is currently being investigated," she said in the statement.
The university's investigation, a 51-page report that was passed on to Big Ten and NCAA officials, found Littlejohn guilty of 12 violations. The university also reprimanded a compliance director for failure to follow up on a violation and placed limits on recruiting.
Among the citations, the report claimed Littlejohn interfered with an earlier investigation by telling players to lie and required players to participate in pickup games before sanctioned practices began.
Women's athletics director Chris Voelz said she was in the process of evaluating Littlejohn's on-court performance this spring after the Gophers' 8-20 finish when 21 students approached her about two months ago with their concerns about the coach.
In the statement Tuesday, Littlejohn said the report ignores any testimony or facts that support her and claimed players were disgruntled and admittedly lied. She also said Voelz improperly participated in the questioning of students.
"The report ultimately relies on manufactured testimony to ensure an illegitimate conclusion," Littlejohn said.
Her attorney, Blessing Rugara, said Monday that he plans to challenge the termination in court and with the NCAA.
Littlejohn concluded by saying she enjoyed working at the university and thanked supporters. "I take full responsibility for the poor performance of the basketball team," she said, adding, "I wish all of my staff and former players well and greater success in the future."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.