Update on “Schools – Coaches = Lawsuit”

Former WIU coach Don Patterson, courtesy of WGEM-TV

In January, I wrote a post about former Western Illinois football coach Don Patterson and his lawsuit against the school for removing him without cause in September 2009.  Patterson returned to coach the team for the 2009 season after his doctors cleared him to resume his duties after chemotherapy for tonsillar cancer.  Patterson was called into a meeting with WIU athletic director Tim Van Alstine and was informed that the players had question whether Patterson was healthy enough to coach the team.

When he called a team meeting to see if the allegations were true, the players told Patterson that it was not true.  Before Patterson could go back and refute the claim, Van Alstine released an announcement that Patterson “resigned” due to his health.

On Tuesday, Sean Keeler of the Des Moines Register and WGEM-TV in Quincy, Illinois, reported that Patterson and WIU has settled the suit.  The internal investigation determined that Patterson was a victim of discrimination.

There is no doubt that discrimination in the workplace is still around.  The main discrimination factors are age, sex, and race.

I feel that “health” discrimination should be added to that list.  In my viewpoint, Don Patterson was either unjustly fired because of his health or Van Alstine had an ulterior motive or reason to remove Patterson.

It was public knowledge last fall that Patterson’s doctors gave him a clean bill of health to coach again.  Illness and diseases such as cancer, diabetes, or AIDS, does not and should not keep someone from performing daily tasks.  That includes working in an office or coaching a football team.

The question is how did athletic director Tim Van Alstine come to the conclusion that a football team had lost confidence in a coach who had endured surgery and chemotherapy in order to return and coach a team?  Did Van Alstine feel that he needed to “make a big splash” or is there something broken in the administration as some sources and critics are alluding to?

-“Schools – Coaches = Lawsuits” January 31, 2010

That is what I asked in January when the lawsuit was filed.  That question still remains unanswered to what propelled Van Alstine to assume Patterson was unfit to coach with respects to his coach’s health?

It makes you wonder if the practice of health discrimination is more common than we think it is.

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