Controversy surrounds departure of SDSU rowing coach

SAN DIEGO - The coach for San Diego State men’s rowing team alleges he's out of a job because he refused to help raise money for Kevin Faulconer's mayoral campaign.

In 2012, with the men's rowing team at SDSU struggling, some alumni recruited Doug Perez -- a former SDSU coach and former U.S. national team coach -- to help rebuild the club team. Perez accepted it as a volunteer position.

After arriving at SDSU, the number of students wearing the SDSU racing shirt went from 13 to 60. According to the H Del Beekley Rowing Foundation – the rowing alumni group - the annual donations went from about $3,000 to more than $200,000.  The team bought 6 new boats.
           
Better team results also followed.
          
In December of last year, Perez says that he received an email from Christina Brown, executive director of Associated Students at San Diego State University, which oversees club sports. It read in part: “Can you give me a call when you have a chance?  I have a personal favor to ask you. It is about Kevin Faulconer's campaign.”
           
In a phone call, Perez says Brown asked him if he would ask his donors to donate to Faulconer’s campaign. Mayor Faulconer is a former student body president at SDSU.
           
Perez, who has a Ph.D. in political science, says that's an unfair, pressure-filled question for the workplace.

“My immediate response was to caution her - in a mentoring way I thought - that that kind of question is not appropriate to ask a subordinate,” Perez said.
           
About five weeks later, at an Associated Students of SDSU meeting, rowing alumni tell Team 10 they were informed Perez would not return next year. Allan Miller, a board member for the H Del Beekley Foundation, was at that meeting and says he was told Perez had yelled gay and gender slurs.

“That accusation was offensive because of the principles I stand for,” Perez told 10News Thursday.
           
Meanwhile, at meeting a few weeks later, Miller said the school backtracked.

“The Associated Students recanted their statement,” Miller said.

At the same meeting, according to Miller, administrators also alleged that the Faulconer request did happen. According to Miller, the administrators claimed that Perez “snickered at school policies.”

Miller suspected they were grasping at anything to justify the dismissal.

“No, there is no doubt,” responded Perez, when asked by Team10 if there was any doubt in his mind as to why he was let go. “This was retaliation for not going along with an inappropriate suggestion.”

Outraged rowing alumni have launched an e-mail campaign in support of Perez, while donations to the rowing program have begun drying up.
 
“Doug is responsible for a dramatic turnaround,” Miller said. “My wife and I will not be making any more donations in the future.”

“We’ve got great momentum in terms of the number of kids, donations and enthusiasm,” Perez said. “I fear that will stall or things may slip or go backwards.”

In a statement to 10News, SDSU said:

“We cannot discuss details relating to a volunteer coach’s appointment and/or the decision to end an appointment.”

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