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Former volleyball coach Jaye Flood was the winningest coach at FGCU before being fired in 2008 after raising gender equity concerns.
Former volleyball coach Jaye Flood was the winningest coach at FGCU before being fired in 2008 after raising gender equity concerns. / Special to The News-Press

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If given the choice, former FGCU volleyball coach Jaye Flood said she’d rather have her coaching career back than the sizable lawsuit settlement she received from the school four years ago.

“I haven’t gotten a call,” Flood, 55, said from her home in Naples. “I have not had one person offer me a position. There’s some really good high school jobs open right now that I’d love to get a chance at them.”

A former college setter and coach for nearly 30 years before being fired by FGCU in 2008, Flood was the winningest coach at FGCU through more than three years at the school and was named the Atlantic Sun Conference Coach of the Year in 2007, the school’s first in Division I, even while suspended by FGCU.

After she and three other female coaches raised gender equity concerns in 2007, though, Flood was suspended and later fired. She and another coach sued, alleging retaliation and defamation, and Flood was awarded $2.9 million from the $3.4 million settlement.

Flood later sold the USA South club team she founded and operated in Southwest Florida for 11 years. Since leaving FGCU she worked at Tommy Bahama in Naples and now works at the Naples city dock.

Still, Flood said the money doesn’t make up for the loss of her former career.

“I was (financially secure) before,” Flood said from one of the three small condos she said she has owned and renovated in the same building since before her dispute with FGCU. “But I’ve always been a hard worker.”

Flood said she was warned by prominent national administrators in women’s athletics that the lawsuit would end her coaching career — “Why is that? I won it,” she said, almost as exasperated as she is uncertain of the answer — but the Michigan-raised athlete has a long history of standing up for herself.

A high school student in 1972 when the landmark Title IX legislation prohibiting gender discrimination in education was passed, Flood went with her parents before the school board to ask for more than the single uniform provided each girl for an entire year of sports.

Before that, Flood tucked her hair into her helmet to enter the draft of a youth boys ice hockey league.

“Then after the draft they said I couldn’t play,” Flood said. “I was picked by my dentist. He said, ‘I don’t care. I still want her.’”

Flood attended Central Michigan as one of the first recipients of a college scholarship in the Title IX era. She said she didn’t experience homophobia in athletics in her years there, a time when coaching positions in women’s sports were held almost entirely by women.

But just as gender inequities still exist in athletics, discrimination against women in athletics because of sexual orientation is no better now than at any other time in her career, she said.

“After my experience and after seeing what’s going on,” she said, “I want to fight for what’s right.”

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