Former wrestling coach alleges discrimination

SF State’s former men’s wrestling coach, hall-of-famer Lars Jensen, has filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleging age discrimination.

Former SF State Athletic Director, Charles Guthrie, has since resigned from his position and has since been removed from the SF State athletic website. But, he was under fire this past summer after not renewing Jensen’s contract to return to the University as a coach of the wrestling team for a 35th season.

Jensen said his lawyer, Robert Jaret, has now advised him to not speak to the media regarding Guthrie and SF State after several media outlets including NBC Bay Area News reported Jensen was fired because “he did not bring in enough minority athletes” into the wrestling program.

“Recruiting minorities has never been an issue, and it’s never been about race,” Jaret said. “This complaint filed to the DFEH is about age discrimination. Ultimately, race might play a role, however, Guthrie’s comments about Lars was very inappropriate and very insulting.”

According to the DFEH website, claimants must obtain a “right-to-sue” letter from the DFEH. California issues these letters automatically upon request and almost half of the more than 20,000 claims filed with the DFEH each year involve a pre-investigative right-to-sue letter.

“When we filed the complaint, the DFEH asked for all the intentional bases of the complaint to be covered and we complied,” Jaret said. “Whether Guthrie himself is part of a future trial and lawsuit is irrelevant because it’s the institution who is at fault here since Jensen was employed at SF State.”

Jaret said that, since SF State was Jensen’s employer, the University’s Board of Trustees is liable to be sued in the future after the DFEH makes its decision, which could be as early as January 2018.

SF State public affairs manager Mary Kenny confirmed the complaint Jensen filed with the DFEH against the campus and said SF State will be cooperating with the DFEH and their review of the situation.

“We deny discrimination played any role in the process,” Kenny said. “All coaches at SF State serve one-year terms. As a part of an overall evaluation of the wrestling program, we opened the position for national search. The University chose the best possible candidate for the coaching position based on the qualifications of all applicants.”

In addition to filing a claim with the state DFEH, there are two other avenues for claimants who believe they have been victims of workplace discrimination: One, if they can find willing lawyers then they can take their cases to civil court, or two, they can file a claim with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Jaret said the University, however, knew Guthrie needed to be more trained in the spectrum of equity and Jensen, who is 58, met all requirements to remain as head coach of the wrestling team.

“We don’t know what the motivation is behind these comments and the hiring of Jason Welch. I’m sure he’s a fine young man, but he is very under-qualified for the head coaching position,” Jaret said.

Jaret said Welch, 27, has never been a head coach on any collegiate level, and said Guthrie created animosity back in June between the two parties after telling Jensen he “cannot stay [at SF State] forever and that he was the highest paid senior coach on staff.”

Senior Sam Alnassiri, who red-shirted last season for the wrestling team, said he would not pass judgment on both coaches out of respect.

“I’m just ready to get this season started,” Alnassiri said.

Guthrie was unavailable for comment.

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