Former athletic director files a lawsuit against Kean University
Former Athletic Director Glenn Hedden has filed a lawsuit against Kean University, alleging that he was fired for reporting that the university falsified courses and fabricated grades to ensure athletes' eligibility to the NCAA.
Hedden, who worked as athletic director for 22 years at Kean, was let go from his position on May 2, a week after NCAA representatives were at Kean investigating the allegations.
The lawsuit alleges top administrators changed grades and created a course for members of the DIII women's basketball team so two players can meet eligibility requirements to play.
The lawsuit was filed in state Superior Court on June 13 under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, known as the "Whistle Blower Act." The act prohibits an employer from taking any retaliatory action against an employee who reports a violation or partakes in an investigation.
Hedden's lawyer, David Corrigan said under the act, Hedden's firing would be illegal.
"Hedden served the university with distinction for more than 20 years and he was fired …because he blew the whistle after illegal action by Kean University," Corrigan said. "We expect that Hedden will be vindicated."
A trial in front of a six-person jury will likely take place in two to three years, he said.
According to a statement from the university, Hedden was terminated during his annual performance evaluation in May for failing to fulfill his professional responsibilities as athletic director and as the key university official responsible for overseeing compliance.
"The university denies all the allegations contained in the complaint and looks forward to vigorously defending the suit in court," said Steven Hudik, director of communications for Kean. "As this is a matter of litigation, the university will have no further comment."
Hudik said the state Attorney General's Office is representing Kean in court. Several call to the state attorney general's office were not returned.
The suit charges that the following took place:
According to the lawsuit, Hedden was informed on Nov. 22 that a player on the woman's basketball team was not taking the necessary amount of credits to be eligible to play.
After investigating the claim, Hedden found a Kean "Travelearn" course titled "History of Spain" was added to her schedule. The class gave credit for a summer trip to Spain for nine players on the team.
Michele Sharp, the women's basketball coach, approved the course, and a history professor volunteered to teach the course without Hedden's consent, the lawsuit said.
The women's basketball team ended the season with a 24-5 record, landing them within the top 10 teams in the DIII division.
Hedden found that the summer class, which was added Sept. 22, 2010 as a fall semester course, did not have enough students to be considered a class, which is in violation of the university registrar standard.
Also, two of the students had another class scheduled at the same time. The university did not charge summer tuition, the $150 registration fee or late fees for the students, the lawsuit said.
According to the lawsuit, the then acting vice president for academic affairs, Mark Lender, approved the course. The lawsuit said Lender met with Sharp without informing Hedden about the course.
Hedden shared the report with the NCAA and university officials.
Juliette Kenney, an NCAA representative, said if true, Kean violated the requirements for practice and competition, and allowed extra benefits and unethical conduct for players on the team.
Violation consequences can range from probation to banning a sport depending on the severity of the offense.
Hedden completed an academic integrity inquiry report about the class, which the suit says was given to Kean President Dawood Farahi, Vice President of Operations Phil Connelly and NCAA administrators.
In a memo to Connelly, Hedden said the investigation started after a conversation about the academic progress of the players, and was not an "attempt on my part to get someone in trouble," he wrote. "My only concern is the academic integrity of the athletic program," the suit alleges.
Connelly responded that Lender would take responsibility for not advertising the Spain trip as a course, and would alert the NCAA, the suit said.
Connelly said: "If there is a problem with NCAA, it is your fault, and that you would take the hit because of a lack of supervision on your part."
The same day, Hedden was informed that another women's basketball player had a grade changed from an F to an incomplete to maintain a 2.0 GPA, which is needed to keep athletic eligibility.
She played in the game on January 5.
After investigating the grade change, Hedden found that Lender changed the grade without approval from the professor of the course, the lawsuit said.
The professor of the course told administrators the player deserved an F for not completing assignments, the lawsuit said.
The grade was changed back to an F after the January 5 game. She did not play in the game on January 8.
On January 10, the same history professor who taught the History of Spain Travelearn over the summer authorized a grade change from a C+ to a B+, raising her GPA to 2.04, making her eligible to play.
Hedden alerted Connelly of the change, telling him that the situation should be monitored carefully.
According to the lawsuit, Connelly approved the grade change, saying, "athletes having their grade changed is not an infrequent event."
Hedden wrote a follow-up to his academic integrity report with the grade changes, which was submitted to both Kean and NCAA administrators.
In late April, a committee from NCAA was at Kean to investigate the charges. A week later, Hedden was fired.
Hedden is looking to be reinstated in his position with full fringe benefits and seniority, back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney fees and other relief the court deems just.
"We are looking for him to be reinstated," Corrigan said. "The NCAA is also conducting an investigation into the activity, which will further vindicate my client."
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