A Mormon tennis player from Idaho Falls is suing Idaho State, claiming he was discriminated against because of his faith.
Former Hillcrest High tennis standout Orin Duffin filed suit against the school Friday, alleging he was subject to severe harassment because of his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Stuart Summers, Idaho State’s associate vice president for marketing and communications, said Monday that school officials will not comment on the pending litigation.
The suit comes almost a year after ISU’s Office of Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Diversity completed an investigation into allegations that Duffin was subjected to religious harassment.
That investigation found allegations that assistant coach Nate Gross and some team members sent women, possibly prostitutes or strippers, to Duffin’s hotel room while the team was at a tournament in Las Vegas. The investigation also found that then-head coach Bobby Goeltz permitted a culture of hostility toward Duffin on the team and failed to investigate allegations of Gross’ misconduct.
“The interviews conducted collectively paint a clear picture that (Duffin) was subjected to severe, persistent and pervasive harassment and bullying,” investigators found. “In particular, they establish that (Duffin’s) religion was a contributing factor (to) that treatment.”
The report recommended that Goeltz, a popular longtime coach, be fired and that Gross, who had already resigned, not be rehired.
Goeltz announced his “retirement” in late July, a month after the internal investigation concluded. But a letter from the Office of Equal Opportunity notes that Goeltz “submitted his notice of retirement in lieu of termination.”
Goeltz spent 25 years as ISU’s head coach of the men’s and women’s programs. Prior to coming to Pocatello, he was the head coach of the Maryland program for 10 years. He recorded more than 500 career wins.
Gross, who played for ISU before becoming an assistant coach, was announced as the new men’s and women’s coach at the University of Hawaii-Hilo on July 30. In September, however, Tina McDermott was announced as Gross’ replacement.
Reached by phone Monday, UH-Hilo athletic secretary Audrey Hirayama said Gross’ hiring never went through. A September article in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald said Gross resigned, per a university spokesperson.
Duffin attended Hillcrest from 2011-14 and made the state tournament his final three seasons. As a senior, Duffin won the 5A boys singles championship in Boise, the first such title by a District Six boys singles player since 2009. He was named the Post Register’s All-Area Boys Tennis Player of the Year in 2013 and 2014.
After Duffin’s high school career, he was offered several college scholarships, according to the complaint. He chose to play for ISU, fulfilling a childhood dream.