Hofstra women’s soccer junior midfielder Noriana Radwan, a transfer from the University of Connecticut, appeared at the office of her lawyer on Monday to formally file a lawsuit against her former school, saying the school improperly revoked her scholarship two years ago.
A freshman at the time, Radwan was flagged by the university for making an obscene gesture at a TV camera during UConn’s AAC championship victory over the University of South Florida. During the Huskies’ celebration after clinching the title, ESPNU cameras caught Radwan giving the middle finger in the direction of the camera.
As a result, Radwan was suspended for the NCAA Tournament and her scholarship was revoked by the school, citing “serious misconduct.”
According to Radwan’s lawyer Greg Tarone, the punishment inflicted on Radwan by the university was excessive, and was more severe than punishments handed out to male athletes on UConn’s football and basketball teams for similar or worse offenses.
Radwan’s lawsuit includes claims that, among other things, her right to due process was violated by the university.
She also alleges that UConn was in violation of Title IX, the amendment that protects female students and athletes from discrimination in athletics and academics based on gender.
“She’s a female athlete who was treated differently than male athletes at the institution,” Tarone said in a story from The Hartford Courant.
In the lawsuit, Radwan alleges that she was told by UConn’s athletic director at the time, Warde Manuel, that he and head coach Len Tsantiris didn’t view the incident as a big deal, and that she wouldn’t lose her scholarship as a result.
But on Dec. 19, 2014, Radwan received a call from her coach notifying her that she would be stripped of her scholarship. She filed an appeal, but missed the deadline, a deadline that, according to the lawsuit “wasn’t made clear to her.”
Furthermore, Radwan says in the lawsuit that Tsantiris told her not to return to UConn in the spring, but instead to “take classes at a community college.”
She claims that her coach told her that he wouldn’t help her in the appeals process, but would welcome her back to the team in the fall if she chose not to file an appeal.
In the aftermath, Radwan received a three-quarters scholarship from Hofstra, where she excelled this past season as a junior, scoring six goals and 13 points, good for second and third best on the Pride, respectively.
Radwan acknowledged in a press conference held in Tarone’s office on Monday that the obscene gesture was a “misjudgment during an emotional moment.”
One specific incident that Tarone pointed to as evidence of Radwan’s mistreatment was that of Brian Cespedes. Cespedes, a former offensive lineman for UConn’s football team, was arrested in September of this year on misdemeanor assault charges after a fight that left five people injured.
Cespedes, despite the arrest, was not suspended from the university after charges were brought against him.
The NCAA typically uses the term “serious misconduct” to describe violations of a heinous nature, including domestic violence and sexual assault. Assault of any kind could be considered “serious misconduct.”
“It’s clear from the information I’ve gathered that there have been many other incidents of much more serious misconduct and nobody lost a scholarship over it,” Tarone told the Courant.
Another allegation made by Radwan in her lawsuit was that UConn and Tsantiris wanted to use the scholarship stripped from Radwan to lure another player to the Huskies’ soccer team, a player that never wound up attending the university.