Toledo Rockets helmet [600x400]
Toledo Rockets helmet [600x400] (Credit: Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire)

DeChambeau edges McIlroy to win 2nd U S Open

Former Toledo assistant Craig Kuligowski is suing the school and one of its administrators, alleging he was fired because of his age and race, and that the school violated due process when dismissing him in January 2023.

Kuligowski, a 2022 Toledo Hall of Fame inductee who played at the school and twice served as an assistant, filed the lawsuit last month in U.S. District Court in Ohio, and is seeking damages in excess of $10 million. Toledo, which is being represented by the Ohio Attorney General's office, issued its response to the lawsuit Monday.

In a 22-page filing, Kuligowski's attorneys wrote he was fired "because he was the wrong age and the wrong race," adding that the university deemed him "not representative" of its athletes and replaced him with a younger, Black employee. Kuligowski, who is now coaching for a team in Poland, is 55 and white. His lawsuit names Toledo and Bethany Ziviski, who had been the university's interim senior associate vice president of human resources and chief human resources officer at the time of Kuligowski's firing. Ziviski on Monday filed a motion to dismiss Kuligowski's lawsuit.

"Craig Kuligowski, a former assistant football coach at The University of Toledo, was terminated for cause Jan. 14, 2023, for violating the University's non-retaliation and standards of conduct policies," Toledo said in a statement to ESPN. "UToledo is committed to creating a safe and welcoming environment for everyone and holds our leaders to high standards. It is imperative that all employees follow University policy and provide educational and working environments that are free from discrimination and harassment. The University will decline further comment on pending litigation."

In the fall of 2022, a female employee filed a sexual harassment report against Kuligowski, alleging that he made inappropriate comments about her clothing, specifically her "fancy pants." Kuligowski denied making the statement and said the university never corroborated the complaint. Toledo in its response Monday disputed his account. Both sides acknowledge that the employee did not want the university to proceed with a formal complaint. Toledo opened a formal investigation in early October 2022.

Kuligowski's lawsuit states that the female employee approached him in December 2022, leading him to say, "If my wife knew you were near me, she'd kill you," which he claimed was a "joke born of an uncomfortable situation." The employee filed a complaint against Kuligowski the following day, asking for him to be fired. Toledo soon suspended Kuligowski and sent him home from the team's bowl game. According to his lawsuit, the university did not provide Kuligowski a reason for his suspension or give him the chance to respond.

Toledo, in its response, denied the claims and also denied Kuligowski's allegation that its human resources department found him "responsible for retaliation without a hearing." In Ziviski's motion to dismiss, her attorneys write that Kuligowski failed to request a "name-clearing hearing," which invalidates his claim for a lack of due process.

Kuligowski was an all-conference offensive lineman at Toledo, and began his coaching career there at 1992. He remained with the Rockets until 2001, and returned in 2020 as the team's co-defensive coordinator, assistant head coach and outside linebackers coach.