UNC Settles Dorrance Suit With One of Two Former Players

The University will pay $70,000 to former soccer player Debbie Keller ’96 in exchange for her agreement to drop her sexual harassment claims against Coach Anson Dorrance ’74. Dorrance, the architect of the most successful varsity program in the NCAA’s top division in any sport, will be required to apologize to Keller and to take part in annual sensitivity programs for the next eight years.

Claims made against Dorrance by another former player, Melissa Jennings ’00, are scheduled to go to trial in October.

UNC Athletics Director Dick Baddour ’66 said that the University stands behind Dorrance and that it took the opportunity to halt the litigation, which was filed six years ago. The settlement also ends Keller’s action against assistant coaches and other UNC officials who were named in the suit.

As part of the settlement, Dorrance admitted he sometimes participated in group discussions with the team about their sexual relationships and activities. He said his involvement was intended in a teasing manner, and he apologized for offending Keller.

The settlement calls for Dorrance to participate in annual training through UNC’s sexual harassment policy and also to participate in a gender-sensitivity program selected by the University. If he fails to complete the training in any of the eight years, he must pay Keller an additional $10,000.

Also, the University agreed to notify all varsity athletes of their rights under the sexual-harassment policy.

Keller agreed in the settlement to file a letter with the University that states, “Anson Dorrance made multiple overt sexual comments that were uninvited and that, in my opinion, were offensive. As a result, I personally felt uncomfortable around him. Neither Anson Dorrance nor any member of the coaching staff for the UNC-CH women’s soccer team made an overt pass at me or asked for a sexual relationship.”

“In the 25-plus years Coach Dorrance has led UNC women’s soccer, only two complaints of this nature have ever been made,” Baddour said in a statement. “Those two complaints are the subject of the current lawsuit. I continue to have complete confidence in Coach Dorrance and the leadership of our women’s soccer program.” Keller’s suit asked that Dorrance be dismissed from his job.

Jennings alleges in the $12 million suit that Dorrance reimbursed team members for alcohol purchased for her during a recruiting trip. She also claims Dorrance used his position to intimidate players into sharing intimate details of their personal lives. Jennings was dismissed from the team by Dorrance in 1998.

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