An era is officially over at Penn State. One of the most successful coaches in the history of her sport is moving on.
Penn State women’s head coach Rene Portland has resigned according to a statement released by the university Wednesday night. Portland leaves behind a legacy as the most successful coach in the history of Penn State basketball, winning 606 games with the Lady Lions. She is only the ninth coach in NCAA history to win 600 games at one university. Portland also leaves amid controversy that she discriminated against players she believed to be gay.
In 2005 Jennifer Harris was dismissed from the team by Portland. In December of that same year Harris filed a lawsuit against Portland, stating that Portland had dismissed her from the team because Portland believed her to be gay. According to ESPN.com, Harris accused Portland in the lawsuit of “humiliating, berating and ostracizing” her. Harris also claimed that Portland wanted her to be “more feminine.” Harris denies that she is now nor ever has been a lesbian.
After a university investigation Portland was fined $10,000 by the university. Portland has denied she dismissed Harris because of Harris’ sexuality. Instead, Portland contends that Harris was dismissed due to basketball-related issues. Harris and Portland have since reached a settlement which has never been disclosed to the public.
Since the lawsuit, several of Portland’s former players have confirmed the allegations made by Harris. Many news outlets interviewed former players, all of whom said that Portland was discriminative against players she thought were gay. Portland did indeed tell the Chicago Sun-Times in 1986 that she didn’t allow lesbians to play on her team.
Portland made a statement early on Thursday regarding her decision. “This was obviously a difficult decision,” according to Portland. “I am very appreciative of the opportunity to coach at Penn State, which has become a special place for me and my family. I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish with the Lady Lion program through the years.”
Tim Curley, Directory of Athletics for Penn State, also released a statement on Thursday. Curley said “I appreciate what Rene has done for the women’s basketball program. Rene has been a member of the Penn State and State College communities for more than 25 years and has had a positive impact on the lives of student-athletes and others outside of the basketball program. Rene and her staff have worked very hard to produce teams that were competitive nationally and within the Big Ten. I join all Penn Staters in wishing Rene and her family the best in the future.”
Portland coached at St. Joseph’s and Colorado before going to Penn State. Overall, she has a record of 693-265, one of the best in the history of college basketball. Penn State has floundered in the past seasons. This year the team went 7-9 in Big Ten play and 15-16 overall. Portland will go down as the only coach to be hired by Joe Paterno when Paterno was athletic director.