(WBIR) A federal judge will now decide if information about Lady Vols coach emeritus Pat Summitt's illness and departure would be included in an age and sex discrimination lawsuit against the University of Tennessee.
Debby Jennings served as Lady Vols media director for 35 years before retiring from the university. She filed a lawsuit in federal court against UT and athletic director Dave Hart two years ago, claiming age and gender discrimination forced her to retire. Both Hart and UT have denied the allegations.
Jennings said she believes Summitt experienced similar treatment after doctors diagnosed her with early on-set dementia in 2011, which is why she mentioned Summitt in the lawsuit. On June 20, UT filed a motion for a protective order to keep Summitt's illness and departure as head coach out of the lawsuit.
Jennings's attorney, David Burkhalter, said granting the school's motion would kill his client's lawsuit.
According to Jennings's suit, Summitt was clearly upset when Hart told her that she wouldn't coach the Lady Vols in the 2012-2013 school year. Summitt's son, Tyler Summitt, said in the statement that he suspected his mother was confused or misunderstood her conversation with Dave Hart. Tyler Summitt went on to say that when he spoke to Hart, the athletic director expressed shock and suggested there was some misunderstanding. Tyler then spoke with his mother, and she agreed that she must have misunderstood Hart, according to court documents.
Tyler also told Jennings that "he did not want his Mom's health being a focus" of the case.
The legendary coach later said, "I did not then, and I do not now, feel that I was 'forced out' by the university."
Jennings's attorney appeared in federal court Thursday in downtown Knoxville on his client's behalf. The hearing continued for about 90 minutes before Judge Bruce Guyton took the case for consideration.
No word yet on when a ruling will be issued.