Field of Screams

UMSL baseball coach Jim Brady's fevered battle with university officials has gone to extra innings.

Nov 15, 2007 at 4:00 am
University of Missouri-St. Louis baseball coach Jim Brady will not let it go. The nearly $2 million age-discrimination suit he won against the university this past February has done little to diminish the lingering anger he has for his two ex-bosses, whom he believes tried to force him from his job. Those same two officials recently received new, better-paying positions at the university.

"This case was never about the money," says 56-year-old Brady. "It was about right and wrong. For ten years they did everything thing they could to make my life miserable, and the court agreed."

Brady's saga began in 1997, when UMSL's then-athletic director Patricia Dolan altered his employment contract to require that the coach work through the summers for no extra pay. In 1998, Dolan's boss — former Vice Chancellor Reinhard Schuster — tried to get Brady to sign an agreement mandating that he quit, should his team lose more than half its games in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. The next year Brady was fired even though none of his teams had ever posted a losing record. When a grievance committee later won Brady his job back, the coach returned to campus only to discover that his office had been moved into a former janitor's closet, and later to a cubicle inside the school's indoor swimming complex.

"I had a recruit and his mother in there one time, and the mom literally passed out from all the heat and chlorine," recalls the gruff-spoken Brady, who today ranks as one of the nation's most successful college baseball coaches, with a .612 winning percentage over 22 seasons. "The place was like a steam bath, especially in the summers. It was unbearable."

At the end of the 2002 season, Dolan and Schuster informed Brady of their decision to designate baseball — in addition to women's softball and volleyball — as a so-called "Tier II" sport at the university. Brady's full-time position would be cut to part-time, his salary sliced in half, to $19,000, and his medical benefits eliminated. (See "Foul Ball," D.J. Wilson, May 14, 2003.)

A colon cancer survivor and father of two teenage boys, Brady got a second job as a Teamster. In the mornings he'd haul electrical supplies to construction sites in his beat-up Saturn station wagon. In the afternoons, he coached baseball.

In 2005 Brady suffered his first losing season, a result he attributes to his inability to adequately recruit as a part-time employee. Worse still, in September of that year, UMSL announced plans to bulldoze the school's baseball field in order to make way for Express Scripts' $50 million headquarters on university property. (To this day Brady's team remains without a field and is forced to practice at a nearby high school.)

Yet all was not lost. In January 2005 a St. Louis County jury awarded Brady $1,275,000 in a lawsuit charging Dolan, Schuster and the university with cutting his coaching position to part-time in retaliation for an age-discrimination complaint he'd previously made against the school. "My attorney Jerome Dobson served them a heaping helping of humble pie," boasts Brady. "They should still be choking on it."

In a letter to the UMSL student newspaper The Current, shortly after the verdict, juror Curtis Frost wrote that the jury was so enraged by the actions of Dolan and Schuster that they doubled their punitive damages to $100,000 and $200,000, respectively. "[I]t was very clear that they were the ones instigating the whole ordeal against Coach Brady, and the university stood by and let it happen," wrote Frost.

The university appealed the decision. A year ago this month, the court of appeals also took Brady's side. In a scathing opinion, Judge Nannette Baker wrote: "The defendants used trickery and deceit to cover up the discrimination and retaliation under the guise of budget cuts." Again, the university appealed. The suit at last ended this past February when the Missouri Supreme Court declined to hear the case and the university cut Brady a check for $1.8 million — a sum that included the damages assigned to UMSL, Dolan and Schuster, as well as accrued interest and legal fees. Now a millionaire, Brady drives the same Saturn station wagon (158,000 miles and counting) he did as a Teamster and outfits himself with the grab bag of sweat suits that define his daily uniform.

Vice Chancellor Schuster, meanwhile, took a leave of absence from the university last December, soon after the appeals court rendered its decision. Dolan stepped down from the athletic director's post in April.

Brady says he was shocked then to learn this semester that his chief tormentors — Dolan and Schuster — had quietly accepted new job titles at UMSL, with increased salaries. "It's a slap in the face to me, to the taxpayers and to law-abiding citizens," fumes Brady. "Here you have a university that spent millions defending the actions of these people. A court of law found them guilty of discrimination, and what does the university do? They give them new jobs and a pay raise!"

Brady isn't the only one questioning the moves. Earlier this semester an anonymous tipster slid a note under the door of The Current drawing attention to Schuster's hiring. A few weeks later the paper reported that Schuster's nominal demotion — from vice chancellor to associate vice chancellor — came with a $3,000 pay raise, to $169,500.

In addition, Schuster is one of only a few school administrators granted a university-owned car — a brand-new Chevy Uplander. More digging found that Schuster's new position was never posted through the university's department of human resources. The same goes for Dolan's new job as special assistant to the vice chancellor of academic affairs that pays her $93,000 — or approximately three grand more than she earned as the school's athletic director.

Dolan and Schuster did not return a phone call for comment.

"There are a lot of students on campus who can't believe this is happening, especially since they're the ones paying these people's salaries," comments Thomas Helton, the 21-year-old political science major who first broke the story in the school paper. "They want to know how you go from being an athletic director found guilty of discrimination and land a new job in academic affairs. It just doesn't seem to make sense on the surface."

In a follow-up editorial The Current posed two questions: "Why should the university feel the need to make positions for administrators who resign? Why are there exceptions made for these individuals?"

Moreover, the paper wanted to know how Dolan and Schuster could still be on the school's payroll when the University of Missouri's personnel rules clearly state that employees found to discredit the university will be terminated.

So enraged is Brady by the alleged slight, he's taken to handing out a copy of the rules to anyone who bothers to ask. "It's cowardice that the administration is not doing anything about this," he says. "I'm not out to embarrass my state university, but I expect them to follow the same rules and legislations that I abide by."

UMSL spokesman Bob Samples says Dolan and Schuster's new titles have nothing to do with Brady's lawsuit. "I can only tell you that these reassignments are part of a reorganization structure that the campus implemented in the past four years under Chancellor Thomas George," says Samples. Such reassignments, he adds, do not require posting through the human resources department.

As to Dolan and Schuster bringing "discredit" to the university, Samples says the personnel guidelines are subject to legal interpretation. To Samples' knowledge neither Dolan nor Schuster received university discipline — or sensitivity training — following the baseball coach's courtroom victory.

"Business as usual," laments Brady. "For years the university condoned discrimination by keeping these people employed. Now they're going to sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened. What do you expect?"