KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Lady Vol Head Coach Emeritus Pat Summitt released a statement late Friday afternoon refuting allegations made in a lawsuit that she was told she would not be returning to coach in 2012.
"It was entirely my decision to step down from my position as Head Coach of women's basketball at the University of Tennessee," said Summitt in the statement. "I did not then, and do not now, feel that I was "forced out" by the University."
"Anyone who knows me knows that any such effort would have met with resistance," she continued. "If my affidavit has caused confusion on that point, it needs to be dispelled."
Last week, the lawyers for Debby Jennings, a former University of Tennessee Athletics department employee, released a 42 page complaint against the University of Tennessee and athletic director Dave Hart.
Friday afternoon, Margie Nichols, vice chancellor for communications for UT issued this statement:
"Pat Summitt is a legend at the University of Tennessee. Our goal through this transition has always been to respect her legacy as the best coach in America."
"We’re saddened that Coach Summitt has been drawn into this. We stand by Pat and her statements, both today and at her press conference in April, that it was her decision to step aside as head coach and become head coach emeritus of the Lady Vol basketball team", says Nichols.
"We are eager to respond to the other allegations in the lawsuit and will do so through the judicial process," says Nichols. "We don’t want this to be a distraction for the basketball team. We agree with Pat: we’re excited about the future of the team under the leadership of Coach Holly Warlick."
One of the allegations says that in March of 2012 UT athletic director Dave Hart had a meeting with then head basketball coach Pat Summitt just before the Lady Vols trip to Chicago for the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament. In that meeting the lawsuit alleges that Hart informed Summit that "she would not be coaching the Lady Vols basketball team next year."
The lawsuit goes on to state that Jennings protested Hart's decision in writing and viewed it as an act of discrimination.
The complaint seeks a trial by jury, alleging unlawful discrimination and retaliation under various causes of action and seeks monetary relief.
Dave Hart and the University have not responded to requests for comment. The complete complaint and Pat Summitt's statement are attached.
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