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Tennessee cites job performance in firing of coach

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP)

Tennessee officials are citing unsatisfactory job performance as their reason for firing Lady Vols associate strength coach Heather Mason, who sued the university last fall.

''Specifically, the coaches of the teams with which you work have concluded that their teams need a different strength and conditioning coach,'' senior associate athletics director Mike Ward wrote in a letter to Mason that appears on her personnel file.

Mason's personnel file, obtained through a public records request, includes letters from Tennessee women's basketball coach Holly Warlick and women's soccer coach Brian Pensky recommending that a change be made. The information in her personnel file was first reported by the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Mason, associate director of sports medicine for women's basketball Jenny Moshak and former associate strength and conditioning coach Collin Schlosser sued the university last October for discrimination and retaliation. The suit alleges they performed similar tasks as employees who held similar positions for men's athletic teams, but that they received less pay because of their gender or because of their association with women's teams.

The lawsuit also says Schlosser lost his job and that Moshak and Mason were demoted and had their staff reduced after each filed a discrimination complaint.

Moshak is the only plaintiff still employed at the university. Mason is on administrative leave with pay until June 3.

In their letters recommending a new strength and conditioning coach, Warlick and Pensky both cited a lack of communication as one of their issues with Mason. Warlick also indicated she wanted someone who would provide training more specific to basketball. Mason had just finished her 10th season at Tennessee, and her bio indicated she ''has been responsible for all facets of training 11 Lady Vol teams.''

''Heather's training approach has been to train the `overall' athlete,' Warlick wrote. ''I feel it is crucial to our success that our training regimen is basketball specific. I have lost confidence in Heather's ability to deliver training techniques or motivate our players to the level expected of this prestigious program.''

Keith Stewart, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs in Mason's lawsuit, declined to comment because he said it's a pending legal matter.

Mason's personnel file also shows she consistently received favorable performance reviews.

In the 2011 review completed by Moshak and former senior associate athletic director David Blackburn - the most recent review on file - Mason received 21 out of 25 points. That review indicated Mason ''consistently exceeds expectations'' in service and relationships and ''fully achieves and occasionally exceeds expectations'' in the four other categories.

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