Heike v. Cent. Mich. Univ. Bd. of Trustees

Decision Date01 July 2011
Docket NumberCase Number 10-11373-BC
PartiesBROOKE ELIZABETH HEIKE and BETHANY L. BROWN, Plaintiffs, v. CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY BOARD OF TRUSTEES and CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Michigan

Honorable Thomas L. Ludington

OPINION AND ORDER CONSTRUING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS AS A

MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS, CANCELING HEARING,

GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS,

DISMISSING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO STAY PROCEEDINGS AS MOOT AND
DISMISSING PLAINTIFF HEIKE'S CLAIMS

On April 7, 2010, Plaintiffs Brooke Heike ("Heike") and Beth Brown ("Brown") (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), filed a complaint against Defendants Central Michigan University Board of Trustees (the "Board of Trustees") and Central Michigan University ("CMU") (collectively, "Defendants") in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan which was assigned to the Honorable Denise Page Hood. Plaintiffs' complaint alleges claims under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Title IV of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiffs allege they were discriminated against based on their race and sexual preference when their athletic scholarships were not renewed. Judge Hood issued an order for Plaintiffs to show cause why the case should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute on August 17, 2010 because the filing fee had not been paid and service of process hadnot been made on the Board of Trustees and CMU.1 Summons were issued on September 1, 2010, and Defendants filed an answer to the complaint with affirmative defenses on September 23, 2010 [Dkt. #12]. An amended answer was filed on October 13, 2010 [Dkt. #14]. On October 22, 2010, Defendants filed a motion to reassign the case [Dkt. #15] to this Court as a companion case. An order was entered reassigning the case to the Northern Division on November 8, 2010 [Dkt. #17].

Now before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff Heike's claims [Dkt. #18] pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendants generally allege that claim and issue preclusion bar Heike's claims. Because Defendants' motion to dismiss was filed after their responsive pleadings were filed, the motion should be addressed as one for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) or as one for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 rather than as one for dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). In the instant case, the matters referenced in the parties' briefs that are outside of the pleadings are matters of public record, and construing the motion as one for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) is appropriate.

Heike filed an untimely response to Defendants' motion on April 13, 2011 [Dkt. #24]. In her response, Heike alleges that res judicata and collateral estoppel are inapplicable because the parties to the instant action are not the same as in Heike v. Guevara, et al., Case Number 09-10427, ("Heike I") and the causes of action and necessary proofs of the instant case are different. Defendants filed a reply [Dkt. #24] on April 18, 2011.

The Court has reviewed the parties' submissions and finds that the facts and the law havebeen sufficiently set forth in the motion papers. The Court concludes that oral argument will not aid in the disposition of the motion. Accordingly, it is ORDERED that the motion be decided on the papers submitted. E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(e)(2). For the reasons provided below, the Court will grant Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings.

I. Facts2
A. The Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Brooke Heike is a female individual of Caucasian and Native American descent. Heike attended Romeo High School in Romeo, Michigan, from September 2002 through June 2006. While attending Romeo High School, Heike played on the girls' basketball team. The team had a record of one win and seventeen losses Heike's freshman year, yet the team won the league championship Heike's senior year. Heike won a "Most Valuable Player" ("MVP") award and was co-captain of the team her senior year. Heike was also named MVP of the Mid-American Conference ("MAC") Blue All-League Team, member of the first tier MAC All-Conference team, member of the first tier All Metro East team, member of the second tier All Metro East team, and received honorable mention on the All-State team. Several colleges and universities recruited Heike to join their women's basketball programs and offered her athletic scholarships, including CMU and several other National Collegiate Athletic Associations ("NCAA") Division I schools.

Heike generally alleges that CMU and its representatives promised Heike that if she enrolled at CMU and joined its women's basketball team, she would receive a college education at CMU and that an athletic scholarship would pay for tuition, room and board, and other expenses during the four years that it would take Heike to earn her degree at CMU. Specifically, Heike alleges thatthen-CMU Head Coach Eileen Kleinfelter stated to Heike during recruitment, "I can't guarantee how much playing time you'll receive, but I can guarantee you an education." Heike alleges that she accepted CMU's offer and declined other offers based on these representations.

On November 3, 2005, then-Athletics Director Herb Deromedi sent Heike a letter, offering her an "athletic grant for the 2006-07 academic year," covering in-state tuition/fees, room and board, and a book loan. The letter stated that renewal of the athletic grant for subsequent years was "subject to the conditions listed on the MAC and National Letters of Intent," which Heike was required to sign. Heike signed the related letters of intent.

Plaintiff Bethany Brown is a female individual of Caucasian descent. Brown attended Grand Ledge High School, in Grand Ledge, Michigan, from September 2003 through June 2007. While attending high school, Brown played on the girls' basketball team. Brown won Class A All-State Honorable Mention during both her junior and senior years, Class A All-Area by the Lansing State Journal and First Team All Conference during her junior and senior years, and was voted "Most Valuable Player" and team captain for both her junior and senior years. Several colleges and universities recruited Brown to join their women's basketball programs and offered her athletic scholarships, including CMU, Northern Illinois, Niagara, Lehigh, Akron (Ohio), and Saginaw Valley State University.

Brown generally contends that CMU and its representatives promised Brown that if she enrolled at CMU and joined its women's basketball team, she would receive a college education at CMU and that an athletic scholarship would pay for tuition, room and board, and other expenses during the four years that it would take Brown to earn her degree at CMU. Specifically, Brown alleges that she inquired what would happen if then-CMU Head Coach Eileen Kleinfelter realizedBrown was not as talented as expected. Brown alleges that Coach Kleinfelter stated in response, "That will be my problem but your scholarship is safe." One July 17, 2006, then-Coach Kleinfelter send Brown an email stating "We are offering you a full ride scholarship and now that you have given us a verbal commitment, our word is good as gold."

On November 6, 2006, then-Athletics Director Dave Heeke ("AD Heeke") sent Brown correspondence offering her an "athletic grant" covering in-state tuition, fees, room, board and book loan.) AD Heeke's letter states that renewal of the athletic grant (hereinafter referred to as "scholarship") for subsequent years was "subject to the conditions listed on the MAC and National Letters of Intent." Brown alleges that CMU, through its authorized representatives, made representations to Brown before and after November 2, 2006 that she would receive the "athletic grant" for all four years of her education. Brown alleges that, based on these representations, she declined other offers she received and accepted the offer from CMU. Brown signed the MAC and National Letters of Intent which AD Heeke had included with his November 2, 2006 letter.

B. Plaintiffs' Experience at CMU

Heike matriculated at Central Michigan University in September 2006 and was a member of the women's basketball team for the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons. In the 2005-06 season under Coach Kleinfelter, the CMU women's basketball team had won sixteen games and lost twelve games. In April 2007, at the close of the 2006-07 season, CMU announced that Coach Guevara would replace Coach Kleinfelter. Coach Guevara had previously been the head coach of the women's basketball team at the University of Michigan and an assistant coach at Auburn University. Subsequently, during the 2007-08 season, the team won six games and lost twenty-three games.

In April 2007, before Coach Guevara had witnessed Heike practice, Heike alleges that shemet with Coach Guevara, who told Heike that she did not want Heike to wear make-up. In May 2007, Brown alleges that she met with Coach Guevara, who told Brown that she "wasn't that big" and that she looked pretty. Despite the alleged discriminatory and harassing actions taken against them that will be further discussed below, Plaintiffs allege that they continued to work hard and were never told that their skills or abilities were lacking.

Plaintiffs allege that Coach Guevara subjected them to unwelcome harassment and discipline throughout the 2007-08 season, including by repeatedly telling Plaintiffs that they were not her "type" of person. Plaintiffs allege that Coach Guevara's comments led them to believe that they were not Coach Guevara's "type" of person because Plaintiffs identified as heterosexual and wore make-up. Plaintiffs believed that Coach Guevara found this to be "an unacceptable heterosexual behavior." Plaintiffs allege that Coach Guevara repeatedly attempted to force them to transfer to another college or...

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