U of Illinois argues players' lawsuit should be dismissed

Oct 21, 2015 - 8:18 PM URBANA, Ill. (AP) The University of Illinois argues in a motion filed this week that a judge should dismiss a lawsuit filed by seven former women's basketball players because the school cannot be sued in federal court.

In the motion filed Tuesday, the university argues that the sovereign immunity that prevents the state from being sued in federal court also covers the state university. The university also argues that the plaintiffs have not provided proof of the racial discrimination they allege.

In the lawsuit, filed in July, the players accuse basketball coach Matt Bollant and former assistant coach Mike Divilbiss of violating their civil rights by creating a racially hostile environment. The players, five of whom are black and two of whom are white, claim that separate practices held for less-favored players were intended to segregate players. The players also claim discipline was more severe for black players, among other things.

''Plaintiffs have failed to plead any facts that plausibly establish race discrimination within the Women's Basketball Program - a threshold requirement under the law to sustain any of the claims alleged,'' university attorneys argue in the motion.

Terry Ekl, an attorney for the players, said he wasn't surprised by the university's claims.

''The test is whether there are sufficient allegations in the complaint to establish the various causes of action,'' he said in an email Wednesday. ''I am confident that the complaint pleads sufficient facts.''

The lawsuit targets the coaches, the university, its board of trustees and athletic director Mike Thomas. The former players seek $10 million in damages. All of them have either graduated or transferred to other schools.

The players have until Nov. 6 to respond to the motion in court, though Ekl said he plans to ask for more time.

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