Thursday, December 8, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

White Coach Says Race Was Issue at Black U

ATLANTA (CN) - A white football coach at a historically black college claims Savannah State University forced him to resign because he has a black fiancée. Robert Wells, the first white head football coach in Savannah State's 120-year history, claims the school's administration told him he would not have the support of the Savannah community because he is white and his fiancée is black, according to his federal complaint.

Wells was hired in 2007. In 2008 he coached the football team to five victories, which "equaled the total number of wins the team had accumulated over the previous five seasons and was also the best season Savannah State had experienced in 11 years," Wells says in his complaint.

The 5-win season prompted Claude Flythe, vice president of administration and a defendant, to announce that Wells would have a "job as long as I have one here," according to the complaint.

But Wells says his job security was threatened in 2009 when he used his own money to produce a "coach's show" on TV, to boost the football team.

The show was hosted by Wells' black fiancée, Nicole Miller.

Wells claims that in a meeting in January this year, Flythe and Marilynn Stacey-Suggs, interim athletic director and also a defendant, criticized him for "his association with his fiancée, a black female, including his use of her to host his weekly coach's show, his allowing her to ride with him on a parade float, and her accompanying him on away football games."

Later that month, in another meeting, Wells says Flythe told him he had a choice of "resigning right then or being terminated immediately."

Wells says he chose to resign to "prevent the recruits who were less than a week away from National Signing Day from experiencing anxiety."

By the end of National Signing Day, Wells says, he found that five of the young men he had recruited for the 2010 season and who had been given a verbal commitment from the school were not offered scholarships or a spot on the roster. He says all of the five men are white.

Wells claims that Suggs and Julius Dixon, the new black interim head football coach and a defendant, said in interviews that the recruits were not signed because Coach Wells "had not followed applicable rules and regulations regarding paperwork, thus the white players were not official recruits and no one at SSU knew of them."

But Wells said there were files on the white recruits and several of them "conducted official college recruiting visits to SSU and met with defendant Dixon and others in the Athletic Department."

Wells also sued the Board of the Regents for the University System of Georgia, Savannah State University and Shed Dawson Jr., assistant athletic director and compliance coordinator.

Wells seeks lost pay and benefits and damages for defamation, racial discrimination and constitutional violations. He is represented by Debra Schwartz and James Rollins Jr. of the Law Offices of Debra Schwartz.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.