Robin Potera-Haskins
Robin Potera-Haskins coaches a Bobcat women's basketball game in this November 2003 file photo.

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BUTTE -- During testimony in her gender discrimination lawsuit against Montana State University Wednesday, former women's basketball coach Robin Potera-Haskins said the school's athletic director bullied her into putting his daughter on her team and giving her a scholarship.

She also testified in U.S. District Court here that athletic director Peter Fields manipulated the program when his daughter complained about her coaching. The trial is expected to continue through this week.

Fields' daughter, who came to MSU from Division II Drury University, "lacked the skills to play at the Division I level," Potera-Haskins said. "I felt the only concern Peter Fields had was to run the women's basketball program to the benefit of Briana Fields."

In her longstanding lawsuit against the university, Potera-Haskins claims that MSU fired her in 2004 in retaliation for complaining that Fields undermined her coaching and that the school had violated federal regulations by treating men's and women's sports teams differently.

MSU maintains that other issues led to the coach's dismissal. According to MSU's attorney Andy Forsythe, Potera-Haskins "was overly critical, insensitive and unresponsive to (her players') academic needs." And because of her behavior, the women's basketball team had a severe retention issue with several players leaving in one year.

Potera-Haskins coached the Bobcats from 2001 to 2004, winning 54 games and Big Sky Conference titles in 2002 and 2003. She was fired in the spring of 2004.

Her first two seasons at MSU went smoothly enough, associate athletic director Dan Davies testified Wednesday. He'd given her an exceptional evaluation, he said.

But Potera-Haskins' alleges her troubles began after Peter Fields came to MSU in the spring of 2002 and soon after intimidated her into putting his daughter on her team in the middle of her third season as coach of the Bobcats.

Briana Fields was disgruntled because the coach did not give her enough playing time and didn't like her coaching methods, Potera-Haskins said.

She "had immediate complaints" about the coach's pre-season conditioning program, particularly running, she said. Briana Fields was more interested in lifting weights than shooting practice and "saw no correlation between running and basketball," Potera-Haskins testified.

Shortly after his daughter arrived at MSU, Fields reassigned the women's basketball team's pre-season training to a staff weight trainer, she said.

Once the season got underway, the athletic director further limited the coach's training time with the team, telling her she was "physically and emotionally abusing" the student athletes, she said.

"I love my players," she said, breaking down in tears. "I was trying to prepare them to be the best that they could be.

"I was the person hired to run the women's basketball team," she added. "I was totally undermined every step of the way."

Davies and former MSU men's head basketball coach Mick Durham, both with more than a decade with the university, testified they knew of no instances when administrators meddled in the activities of men's coaches.

Potera-Haskins also claims the school treated men's and women's teams unfairly when they gave visiting men's teams a $25,000 guarantee to play in a school-sponsored tournament but nothing to women's teams. Eventually, MSU made a $5,000 guarantee to women's teams, Potera-Haskins said. That was still unfair, she said.

Peter Fields and former MSU president Geoff Gamble are both expected to testify as the trial continues Thursday.

Jodi Hausen can be reached at jhausen@dailychronicle.com or 582-2630. Read her blog at jhausen.wordpress.com or follow her on Twitter @bozemancrime.

 

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