March 20, 2023

Athletic director resigns > UMM coach center of harassment probe

MACHIAS — Sean Casey, director of athletics and varsity basketball coach at the University of Maine at Machias, resigned Friday, more than a year after the Office for Civil Rights began an investigation into allegations that he created a sexually hostile environment for female students and employees at UMM.

Casey’s resignation was effective Friday, UMM President Paul Nordstrom announced in a press release. The press release also stated that a confidential settlement agreement had been reached with Casey.

Reached by telephone Sunday, Casey said he did not want to comment on the sexual harassment case until he conferred with his attorney, Steve Hodsdon, on Monday.

However, he did say, “I’ve had a wonderful 18-year relationship with the university, and I leave behind a lot of hard work and great memo- ries.

“I’ll always remember the people who played for me and who worked with the program, and for those things I will always be indebted to them,” he said. “As far as what the future holds, I was in Seattle (for the NCAA Final Four) last week, and two people talked to me about jobs. At this point, I’m not interested in coaching or being in education. I have no plans, no job offers. I’m looking forward to going in a different direction with my life.”

Casey added, “If I offended people in my 18 years at Machias, I sincerely apologize to them. I’ll leave with a very clear conscience knowing I gave my best for UMM.”

An interim athletic director and interim varsity coach of basketball will be selected in the near future by Shirley Erickson, dean of student affairs.

Some students and employees at UMM complained back in the winter of 1989 that Casey was sexually harassing them. Those allegations were included in the OCR’s Letter of Findings, a copy of which was received by UMM on Nov. 30, 1994.

Nordstrom responded last November to the OCR letter by ordering a review of Casey’s alleged misconduct and the OCR’s findings. However, OCR investigators had already concluded that the university had violated federal law, Title IX, because UMM officials “knew or should have known of possible harassment and failed to take appropriate action.”

Casey told OCR investigators that no one had ever informed him of complaints of sexual harassment against him nor warned him not to continue to engage in harassment or sexual remarks. “He denied ever making an inappropriate remark to any student or employee,” the report stated.

According to the 15-page OCR report, a female student and employee of UMM told OCR investigators that Casey had harassed her while she was studying in the athletic department. The alleged harassment extended from 1989 through January 1991, when she left UMM. It began again in the fall of 1992 when she returned to UMM and continued until she left in late October 1992.

She charged that Casey used offensive sexual terms when speaking to and about women, including herself. He frequently used words such as “whore” or “slut,” the OCR report stated. “The athletic director made frequent comments about her breasts, behind, hair, speech, and walk,” it stated.

After a review of OCR’s findings and Casey’s alleged misconduct, the UMM president concluded and Casey agreed that “it was in the best interest of the university for the AD to leave his duties at UMM,” according to the press release.

The settlement agreement between Casey and the univeristy is confidential and will not be released by the university. Nordstrom was not available for comment Sunday.

UMM assistant basketball Coach Wulf Koch said, “He (Casey) has done a great job at UMM. But you could tell that the whole situation was bothering him this year.”

Koch, formerly the athletic director at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, said Casey “has always been good to me professionally and privately. As for the allegations, they happened in the past before I came here. I can’t say anything in regard to that.”

Koch, Husson College basketball Coach Bruce MacGregor and University of Maine at Presque Isle basketball Coach Karl Henrikson said they had a lot of respect for Casey and the job he did.

“He was a phenomenal basketball coach,” said Henrikson. “In my 17 years as a basketball coach, I’ve never coached against a better coach than Sean. Every time we took the floor, it was a challenge, believe me. He certainly got the most out of the people he worked with. As a coach, I don’t think there is anybody I respect more than Sean Casey.”

MacGregor said he and Casey had a good relationship based on mutual respect and had worked closely together on various committees designed to improve the NAIA.

“He’s always been a valuable comrade in our work towards the betterment of the NAIA. His decisions and thoughts were always held in high esteem,” said MacGregor.

Casey guided his Clippers to 11 consecutive Northeast College Conference championships. His 1990-91 team became the first UMM team ever to qualify for the 32-team NAIA National Tournament in Kansas City. His 18 teams compiled a 294-155 record.

The 45-year-old Casey is a graduate of Orono High School, where he quarterbacked the 1966 Riots to a state football championship. He was also a guard on their 1967 state Class L championship basketball team.

He went on to help Acadia University of Wolfville, Nova Scotia, win a Canadian universities championship in basketball, and graduated from that institution with a degree in sociology in 1973. He received a master’s degree in education from the University of North Florida in 1976.

His coaching career took him to Jacksonville University and to John Carroll Institute in Florida before he returned to his home state in 1977.

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