|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Tuesday, March 2, 2004
North County Times 2-29-04
Ohton demanded return to football duties
SAN DIEGO ---- San Diego State strength and conditioning coach Dave Ohton demanded reinstatement of his duties with the football team 10 days before filing a lawsuit that alleges he has been retaliated against for providing information that was crucial to a California State University Chancellor's Office audit of the athletic department.
In a strongly worded letter dated Feb. 3, Ohton expressed his disappointment over the university's decision to hire a different strength coach for the football program. The letter was sent to CSU chancellor Charles Reed, San Diego State president Stephen Weber, CSU general counsel Steven Raskovich, SDSU vice president for business and financial affairs Sally Roush and SDSU director of human resources Sue Blair.
"This is the last straw," Ohton wrote. "I request that you immediately reinstate me as the strength and conditioning coach of the San Diego State University football team along with my other regular duties and that the retaliatory conduct against me and others immediately cease and desist.
"President Weber is invited to accompany Ms. Blair to our scheduled meeting on Friday, February 6, 2004 so that he can personally listen to the facts and review declarations concerning retaliation, assault on a player by a coach, intimidation of players, drunkenness in public and the moral demise of our football program. Unless, of course, he doesn't care."
In the suit Ohton filed in Superior Court against the CSU system, San Diego State, Aztecs football coach Tom Craft and others, he alleges all the things he referred to in the letter. One allegation that triggered public outrage was Craft's slapping of lineman Mike Kracalik in a team meeting two years ago.
The meeting regarded the need of players to not respond to physical threats.
On Friday, athletic director Mike Bohn described the slapping incident as "an ill-advised and unfortunate dramatization of a point in the locker room." In the letter, Ohton also states "continuing retaliatory acts" on the part of Craft. He cites a Jan. 23 incident in which he said he was advised by football players that Craft pointed to the weight room windows and instructed the players not to speak to Ohton because he couldn't be trusted.
Craft requested Ohton's removal from working with the football program last summer. Gene Bartow, serving as interim athletic director, granted the request in August. Ohton continued to work with other San Diego State athletic teams.
Bartow is among the people Ohton is suing.
The university recently hired John Francis to handle the football strength duties. Ohton claims the change in his own duties violates Government Code 8547 that allows state employees to report information without fear of retribution.
Ohton wrote that the hiring of a new strength coach "rewards and continues the retaliatory conduct against me and makes a mockery of President Weber's promise to protect whistleblowers at San Diego State University." Ohton's attorney hasn't returned phone calls. Ohton returned one call last week, leaving a voice mail in response to an inquiry seeking his side of the story.
"I appreciate your call the other day," Ohton said. "I'm really not wanting to wage a war in the media."
In his suit, Ohton alleges intimidation on the part of Bohn in a late January meeting. He states that Bohn implied that Ohton's job was in jeopardy.
On Saturday, Bohn confirmed that Ohton's contract was extended for another full year on Feb. 14.
Bohn declined an opportunity to address Ohton's view of their conversation. One account of the meeting is that it occurred because of Bohn's belief in teamwork and his hopes that he could have a positive discussion with one of his employees.
"Based on existing litigation, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on any claims on accusations related to the suit," Bohn said.
Bohn is not named in Ohton's suit.
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