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Ex-high school coach awarded $2.5M in discrimination case

April 29, 2021 GMT

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A jury has ruled that the Colorado High School Activities Association should pay a former assistant basketball coach $2.5 million in a race discrimination case.

William ‘Trey’ Harris III, who was hired in 2016 as a coach at Sand Creek High School in Colorado Springs, was falsely blamed for a transfer violation and later fired as a “minority scapegoat,” a lawsuit filed in federal court said. Jurors agreed, saying Harris should be awarded $200,000 in economic damages, $1.3 million in non-economic damages and $1 million in punitive damages, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported Thursday.

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Harris owns and operates PLUTO Basketball, a Colorado Springs-based training and club basketball program. In 2014, he hosted a basketball camp where he trained Romeo Maestas, who transferred to Sand Creek two years later.

The transfer was approved by then-CHSAA commissioner Paul Angelico as a ‘bona fide’ move, allowing Maestas to join the varsity boys’ basketball team midseason without a tryout. But after his first game with Sand Creek, it became apparent that the transfer arrangement violated CHSAA rules. CHSAA argued that Harris’ interactions with Maestas two years earlier at the basketball camp constituted a recruiting violation, according to court records.

According to the lawsuit, Harris, who is Black, and then-head coach Robert Hawkins, were suspended, but Hawkins did not serve his suspension. Harris was later fired.

The lawsuit also states that Harris had nothing to do with the transfer and didn’t know about it until after the fact.

CHSAA said in a statement the organization does not believe the evidence supports the jury’s decision and is considering its options.