2015-12-16 / State

Fired fencing coach settles lawsuit against Penn State

By JOE MANDAK
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Penn State has mended fences with an accomplished coach it fired in 2013.

The fencing coach, Emmanuil Kaidanov, filed the federal lawsuit in Philadelphia last year, claiming he was fired after he was wrongly accused of retaliating against an administrative assistant who mistakenly reported that one of his players possessed marijuana.

Kaidanov claimed he merely asked why the whistleblower didn’t come to him first so he could report the drug allegation through proper channels under guidelines the university established after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. It turned out that the marijuana joint the whistleblower thought she saw was just a piece of rolled up athletic tape that a varsity fencer dropped on the ground.

Terms of the settlement first reported Monday were not immediately released, though online court records show the sides agreed to settle back in July.

The university issued a carefully worded statement announcing that the case was “amicably resolved” and detailing Kaidanov’s accomplishments. Among others, Kaidanov’s fencers earned 12 national championships in 31 years, and included the only American fencer to win a world championship.

“Penn State appreciates coach Kaidanov’s future support of both the Penn State men’s and women’s fencing programs,” the statement said.

Kaidanov’s attorney, Alvin de Levie, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that “Coach Kaidanov is extremely pleased that the case has settled, and he feels totally vindicated and happy to have his reputation restored.”

Kaidanov’s lawsuit targeted the Athletics Integrity Agreement that Penn State agreed to under NCAA sanctions imposed due to the school’s handling of the Sandusky scandal. The former assistant football coach is serving decades in prison after he was convicted of molesting several young boys.

Three former administrators are awaiting trial on charges they allegedly knew about and failed to act upon previous allegations that Sandusky molested boys that didn’t result in criminal charges.

In the lawsuit, de Levie argued that Kaidanov had a duty to question the administrative assistant about the drug allegation because, under the integrity agreement, coaches were required to investigate allegations of misconduct against their players as well as report the allegation and whatever they learned to a superior.

Instead, the university fired Kaidanov after determining his questioning of the whistleblower amounted to intimidation even though, the lawsuit claimed, Kaidanov didn’t have the power to discipline the whistleblower or affect her pay or working conditions.

A federal judge last year threw out wrongful termination, defamation and other claims. The settlement deals with Kaidanov’s remaining breach of contract claim.

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