The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday May 19th

Dorrance Lawsuit Moves Forward

The court order issued by U.S. Judge N. Carlton Tilley Jr. on Nov. 13 denied in part the state attorney general's motion for dismissal. The decision was made in U.S. District Court in Greensboro.

The state's motion, made in 1999, came in response to the original suit filed Aug. 25, 1998, by former players Debbie Keller and Melissa Jennings. In the $12 million suit, Keller alleges that Dorrance tried to coerce her into meeting with him in a secluded area and made uninvited sexual advances in October 1996 and in 1998.

Melissa Jennings, who was dismissed from the team after two seasons, claims Dorrance arranged for team members to take her to bars on her recruiting trip and reimbursed them for alcohol bought.

These allegations still will be part of the lawsuit, but Melissa Jennings' claim that Dorrance forced her to withdraw $400 from her bank account to purchase supplies before a game against Clemson will not.

Also, the suit claims that Dorrance interfered with Keller's contractual relationship with the U.S. women's national team. Dorrance also is facing charges of battery against Keller and invasion of privacy against both plaintiffs.

After Tilley dismissed a handful of claims against Dorrance and UNC officials, six claims remain in the suit.

Some claims were dismissed on the basis of the 11th Amendment, which protects the government from being sued. The University is a government agency, so UNC officials qualify.

Louis Varchetto, attorney for Keller and Melissa Jennings, said the prosecution plans to start taking depositions of the defendants and witnesses sometime soon.

"We were pleasantly surprised after all this time to have the ruling -- and a ruling that maintained the integrity of most of the lawsuit," Varchetto said.

John Bason, public information officer for the N.C. Department of Justice, stated in an e-mail Wednesday that though the claims against the defendants are now personal and not official matters, the state still will prosecute the case.

Bason refused other comment.

Dorrance, who has coached the Tar Heels to 17 national titles, said his lawyers have advised him not to comment.

Voted national player of the year in 1995 and 1996, Keller said she's ready for the proceedings to begin. "I've waited four years, and I can tell the same story," she said. "If anything, over time, it's just solidified the longer we wait, just how important it is."

Craig Jennings, Melissa Jennings' father, echoed Keller's sentiments. "We're just glad they are going to progress," he said. "It's been a long time coming."

UNC Director of Athletics Dick Baddour, one official named in the suit, said it will be a waiting game for UNC.

"Our position, in terms of our stance and support for Coach Dorrance, remains the same," he said. "We're committed to him and to the program he runs."

Dorrance is coaching his 24th UNC women's soccer team, which will play Tennessee on Saturday at Fetzer Field in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. He said, "This (suit) has happened in previous seasons, and it hasn't had an impact, so it won't (affect play)."

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.

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