Pitt sues former wrestling coach, claims he manufactured discrimination lawsuit

The (Greensburg) Tribune Review (TNS)
Jason Peters

A former University of Pittsburgh wrestling coach who lost his racial discrimination lawsuit against the school is now being sued by the university, which is seeking to recoup attorneys' fees and other damages allegedly caused by the "frivolous" claims.

Jason Peters served as the university's head wrestling coach from 2013-17. He was fired for failing to alert university administrators that some wrestlers drank alcohol and used the internet to invite suspected prostitutes to their hotel room during a tournament in Illinois.

Peters sued the university, contending he was fired because he is Black. A judge found in favor of the university in September. The university on Wednesday responded with a lawsuit alleging a wrongful use of civil proceedings under the state's Dragonetti Act.

Both lawsuits stem from an incident in December 2016 during which the university wrestling team attended a tournament in Evanston, Ill., according to the court paperwork in the case. One night in the hotel, some of the athletes — including some who were underage at the time, allegedly "drank alcohol and used the website Backpage to call women, who were later described as prostitutes, to come to their hotel room," according to court records.

One student called police, and the wrestling coaches became aware of the situation. Pitt's lawsuit alleged Peters never told the university administrators about the incident, and he actually evaded questions about the situation once someone tipped off the athletic director to what happened.

About a year after he was fired, Peters filed a federal lawsuit alleging racial discrimination and contract violation — "without any actual basis," according to Pitt suit in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

"Peters knew there were no facts that would support a race discrimination claim," attorneys wrote. "In fact, a year after Peters filed his race discrimination claim, he admitted under oath that he was still unaware of any evidence that the university discriminated against him based on his race."

Pitt's attorneys also allege Peters went out of his way to continue pursuing his lawsuit and make moves he knew would increase the cost of defending the school against the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims Peters failed to turn over "thousands of documents and information about dozens of witnesses," including thousands of text messages.

The court ordered Peters to turn over any text messages about the lawsuit and incident starting at the time of the 2016 Evanston incident, according to the lawsuit.

In some of those texts, Peters allegedly told one person he wanted to embarrass the university, allegedly texting, "I love fighting" and "(expletive) those guys," according to the lawsuit.

The university's lawsuit asks for monetary damages, including attorneys' fees, discovery fees and other costs.