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Former UCF Coach Sues For Wrongful Termination

Paul Ferraro alleges head coach George O'Leary used racist remarks and created a hostile workplace.

George O'Leary is cited in the lawsuit filed by his former defensive coordinator
George O'Leary is cited in the lawsuit filed by his former defensive coordinator
Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE

A former UCF football coach filed a breach of contract lawsuit in circuit court on Friday.  The plaintiff, Paul Ferraro, was hired as the defensive coordinator this past December only to leave under peculiar circumstances in February.

The lawsuit claims that Ferraro was bullied and discriminated against by Knights' head coach George O'Leary.  One allegation is that O'Leary used the word "Guinea" to refer to Ferraro, a slur for people of Italian heritage.

Other elements of the suit claim O'Leary disparaged African-Americans and people of Jewish descent.

UCF Vice President for Communications and Marketing, Grant Heston, released a statement that refutes the various accusations made by Ferraro.

"UCF immediately investigated the allegations Mr. Ferraro made when he abruptly abandoned his job. The university's Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action office found the allegations to be untrue," said Heston. "None of the individuals alleged to have been the subject of, or to have overhead, these supposed statements corroborated Mr. Ferraro's claims. In fact, until seeking compensation after abandoning his job, it does not appear he ever discussed this with anyone at UCF."

Ferraro was with the Knights during their preparation for the Fiesta Bowl to get up to speed on the program.  He took over regular coaching duties upon return from Arizona and the lawsuit states that is when things started to go wrong.

In the suit, Ferraro believes that O'Leary wanted to force him out in order to promote interim defensive coordinator Tyson Summers.  Ferraro was allegedly berated in coaching meetings and had his football knowledge routinely tested.

On February 25th, Ferraro sent an email to the coaches and support staff saying he had had enough. 

"No longer will I put up with your constant verbal abuse of both our coaching and support staff," said Ferraro.  "Threatening coaches on a regular basis with their jobs and racial slurs mixed in to make a point is wrong."

At the time, O'Leary told the Orlando Sentinel that Ferraro left the program for "personal reasons".  The lawsuit cites a letter sent by athletic director Todd Stansbury where he wrote, "As your actions show that you have no intent to return to your post as Defensive Coordinator of the Football program, we are accepting these actions as your 14 day notice of resignation from UCF Athletics."

The suit is asking for damages in excess of $15,000.

Ferraro worked with O'Leary at both Georgia Tech and Syracuse.  Prior to taking the UCF job, he had been at the University of Maine for two seasons.