Attorneys for former San Diego State University coach Mary Elizabeth “Beth” Burns filed suit against the university Wednesday claiming she was unlawfully fired last year.

The complaint filed in Superior Court claims Burns was unlawfully terminated in April 2013, following 16 years of success as head coach of the Aztec women’s basketball team. The suit describes Burns as the winningest coach in SDSU women’s basketball history, with an overall 295-186 record that included six conference championships and four tournament titles.

Former SDSU coach Beth Burns. Photo courtesy SDSU website.

“San Diego State fired Coach Burns without good cause, and without any legitimate reason,” said attorney Edward D. Chapin of Chapin Fitzgerald LLC.  “Although she provided exceptional leadership to the team and her staff on and off the court and was committed to excellence in every facet of its women’s basketball program, she was forced to resign solely because of her unwavering insistence that the institution put women’s basketball on an equal footing with the athletic resources and opportunities provided to men at the university.”

Last July, U-T San Diego reported that the dismissal stemmed from a February 2013 home game against Colorado State, obtaining a video tape that showed Burns hitting a clipboard on the lap of Aztecs assistant coach Adam Barrett and later elbowing him in the shoulder after a Colorado State basket.

“The university made a feeble attempt to cover up its real reason for firing Beth Burns by trumping up a charge that she intentionally struck a subordinate,” said Kenneth M. Fitzgerald, another attorney representing Burns.  “The video evidence produced by the university shows Burns’ excited reactions to a defensive breakdown and a ‘Hail Mary’ shot — harmless contact with an assistant coach.”

At the time of her termination, Burns was in the first year of a 5-year employment contract with the university that extended her head coaching responsibilities through June 30, 2017.

— From a press release by attorneys Chapin Fitzgerald LLP

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.