A highly respected softball coach in Alabama is raising claims of reverse discrimination after he was informed that he would not be allowed to keep his job because the school wanted a female softball coach.
As first reported by the Opelika-Auburn News and Al.com, Beauregard (Ala.) High softball coach Brandon Cobb was removed from his position not because of incompetence, but because of the school district superintendent's open desire to have a female coach lead the school's softball program.
"I felt like it was an opportunity to fill that position with a female coach … because we don't currently have any female coaches at Beauregard High School," Lee County Schools Superintendent Dr. Stephen Nowlin told the News. "I think it's important to have some.
"That's just kind of the rationale, is that we need female coaches, too. We need a mixture. We need to have equality in our program for boys and girls in terms of sports that are offered, we need to have equality for them in terms of facilities, and then we need to have males and females among the coaching staff. That's just what I believe and what I think we legally have to try to do."
The loss of his coaching position doesn't mean that Cobb is out of a job; the longtime Beauregard employee will still serve as the school's volleyball coach and will continue to teach U.S. Government.
Yet Cobb isn't content with those roles and told the News that he is considering his options, which could include legal action, though the coach gave no indication that a future lawsuit was in the cards.
"I kind of do [see the district's coaching decision as discrimination]," Cobb told the News. "I guess you would call it reverse discrimination, I don't really know. But it just doesn't feel right, it doesn't seem right, because if it were the other way around it would be wrong -- remove a woman because you want a man head coach, so why wouldn't the reverse be just as wrong?"
Clearly, the coaching situation offers up an intriguing debate on differing views of discrimination. While Cobb's claim may fall in line with most traditional conceptions of gender discrimination, that doesn't mean that courts would agree with his interpretation rather than Nowlin's case that the lack of female coaches was proof of some sense of institutional discrimination already in place at the school.
What happens next is anyone's guess, but one thing is certain: We haven't heard the last of this debate yet.
"I'm just a fan of the program," Danny Cooper, whose daughter played under Cobb in 2008 and 2009, told the News. "I've been with it for 15 years. And I've seen it go from nothing to where it is by hard work of coach Cobb and the parents getting together and doing what's right.
"This is not a personnel issue, this is discrimination because [Nowlin] just wants a female head coach. Last time I checked, I live in America and you're not supposed to judge anybody by their gender, by their religion or by their race."