Michigan State strength coach files discrimination lawsuit against school


A Michigan State strength and conditioning coach has filed a lawsuit against the university, its athletic director and another administrator, alleging discrimination based on race, age and gender, as well as disability.

Mike Vorkapich, who has served as director of athletic performance/sports science for MSU’s hockey team, alleged that the university has demoted him, left him out of key decisions relating to his job and bypassed him for “younger, less qualified, female, black, and nondisabled individuals” in filling recent positions.

Vorkapich, a former football player at the school who has worked in the athletic department for the past 26 years and developed its first sports science program, alleged that athletics director Alan Haller and deputy athletic director Ashton Henderson led the discriminatory treatment, which included significant reductions of salary and responsibilities. Both Haller and Henderson, who are listed as defendants along with MSU, are Black. Vorkapich, 52, is white and has Tourette syndrome.

Vorkapich is seeking reinstatement to his original position, lost pay and benefits and punitive damages.

“I have taken the very difficult step of suing my alma mater and current employer — the institution to which I have devoted my career,” Vorkapich said in a statement issued through his attorney, Scot Hinshaw. “As detailed in my complaint, I have experienced discriminatory treatment based on my age, gender, race and disability and been retaliated against by the University and senior members of the Athletics Department. I cannot stand idly by after the University has demoted me twice in a year without warning or any failing in my performance whatsoever. While I support the goals of diversity and inclusion, I am entitled to be treated in a fair and lawful manner.”

According to the complaint, Henderson informed Vorkapich at a May 2022 meeting that Vorkapich’s title of director of sports science would be removed as part of a demotion that cut his salary and changed his responsibilities to mainly administrative tasks. Vorkapich alleged his responsibilities were assigned to younger, less-qualified employees, several of whom are Black.

Michigan State’s online staff directory lists Vorkapich as director of facilities.

“MSU took these actions against [Vorkapich] in order to promote less qualified, less experienced and younger staff which includes females and persons of color in the name of diversity,” the lawsuit reads. “While [Vorkapich] supports diversity efforts generally, [Vorkapich] does not believe it should be used to his more experienced and knowledgeable detriment.”

In July 2022, Vorkapich filed a discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He alleged that he since has been retaliated against by Haller and Henderson.

According to Vorkapich’s lawsuit, he received a letter in May from Michigan State that stated he could accept the director of facilities position, which paid less than half of his annual salary prior to his demotions, or have his contract terminated June 30. The claim states Vorkapich’s mental health has been affected, and he’s “exhausted, demoralized, denigrated, mentally beaten and despondent about his treatment” from MSU.


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