Former Cal Poly volleyball coach Jon Stevenson will receive most of the money owed to him under his prior contract, according to a separation agreement obtained Thursday by The Tribune.
Additionally, Cal Poly has limited the chance of future sexual harassment allegations against Stevenson, who was relieved of his coaching duties by athletic director Don Oberhelman on Sept. 1.
As outlined in the separation agreement, the university will pay $133,980 and honor 440 hours of vacation to part ways with Stevenson, who was removed as head coach in September before a 2010 investigative report detailing sexual harassment and bullying charges against him was made public.
In return, Stevenson is prohibited from initiating contact with any current players, their parents or any other Cal Poly coaches or Athletic Department personnel.
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Stevenson can attend graduate classes at Cal Poly if he wants to further his education, but has been disqualified from future consideration for any position within the university.
Both sides relinquished the right to any further legal claims against the other, but if Stevenson were to break the no-interaction clause, that would constitute a breach of contract.
The allegations against Stevenson included inappropriate hugging and kissing of players; comments about players’ bodies; inviting players to dinners, runs on the beach and hikes; an attempt to pull down one player’s pants; crude sexual references; and a derogatory comment about Latinas.
According to figures given by Oberhelman, the money being paid to Stevenson — to be doled out in two payments over the next three months — is about $1,200 less than the total salary remaining on Stevenson’s contract, which ran through December 2012. The vacation hours additionally equate to nearly $23,000, Oberhelman said.
There are no provisions for health insurance or retirement benefits in the five-page agreement, which was signed by Stevenson on Oct. 18 and Provost Robert Koob two days later.
The buyout will be funded through the general athletics budget with any ripple effect on the department yet to be determined, Oberhelman said.
Citing a desire to let the document speak for itself, Oberhelman declined to comment. Stevenson, who has yet to publicly address his dismissal in an interview, also declined comment.
The news comes as a relief to some former players, many of whom were interviewed in the university’s 2010 investigation into the allegations against Stevenson.
“I can’t even tell you the emotions that came over me when he was relieved,” former outside hitter Gabrielle Rivera said. “It was like, ‘Finally, some act was taken.’ It felt like closure.”
A former transfer from Florida State University who has played for the Puerto Rico national team, Rivera said she did not play her senior season at Cal Poly after Stevenson refused to renew her scholarship.
Rivera said she wouldn’t have returned to the team even if she had been invited back by the coach, who she said told her all Puerto Ricans were lazy, in addition to instigating several other emotional run-ins.
“At the time, I just wanted to be in the good graces of everyone, and I just laughed it off,” Rivera said. “But now, I look back and I’m like, ‘Wow, that was so disrespectful and pretty blatantly racist.’ ”
The 2010 investigation, conducted by Cal Poly Director of Employment Equity Martha Cody and Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Preston C. Allen, found Stevenson’s conduct unprofessional yet debatable as to whether it satisfied the legal criteria for sexual harassment.
Though restrictions were immediately placed on Stevenson’s contact with the players, the university waited more than a year after the findings and five months after Oberhelman replaced retired athletic director Alison Cone to remove Stevenson.
When he relieved Stevenson of his duties, Oberhelman said he was acting on behalf of the welfare of the student athletes and that he had lost confidence in Stevenson’s ability to lead.Cal Poly might have tried terminating Stevenson’s contract without a severance, but it would have provided more incentive for Stevenson to file a legal claim against the school.
A state university has been sued before by a high-profile coach. Two years before the Stevenson investigation, former Fresno State women’s basketball coach Stacy Johnson-Klein was handed a $6 million award by the court in her wrongful termination and sexual discrimination suit.
Johnson-Klein was fired in 2005 after players complained that she was abusive and used intimidation tactics to illegally obtain pain medication from them.
The Cal Poly investigation also looked into allegations that Stevenson took a player’s pain pills. The report states that Stevenson obtained and later returned the medication.
Former Cal Poly standout Kylie Atherstone, one of the best players in program history, credited Stevenson for turning her into a star player.
Now rehabilitating a shoulder injury in Arizona, Atherstone is coming off a standout professional season overseas. She helped lead the Mustangs to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2006 and 2007.
She said Stevenson appreciated her desire to make volleyball a career and that his faults stemmed from treating players differently after he realized they did not have the talent or drive to do the same.
“Jon is very, very passionate about the game and he knows it very well,” Atherstone said. “And I think a lot of time he didn’t get that the 18- to 22-year-old girls didn’t feel the same way as he did, that volleyball wasn’t the only things on our minds.
“You can definitely tell that he liked some people more than others. Situations weren’t handled the best they could have been handled, but I never noticed anything creepy and weird. He was an odd coach, and it seemed to go good when we were winning.”