In his first detailed public response to the woman's sexual harassment claims, Morgan State football coach Ricky Diggs yesterday admitted making some inappropriate statements and trying to get the former university employee fired.
But Diggs said he felt hurt and under attack from Elizabeth A. Stearns and wanted her fired because she caused conflict among his staff and players.
Diggs' testimony came on the sixth day of a trial in a lawsuit filed by Stearns, the former academic coordinator for athletes at Morgan. Stearns said she was demoted twice and her contract allowed to lapse in June 1993 after she formally complained about Diggs' frequent sexual overtures and harassing remarks about her body and clothing. She is asking for reinstatement and back pay and wants the university to institute a sexual harassment policy and reprimand Diggs.
The trial is expected to continue through next week.
Speaking calmly most of the day, Diggs said he was surprised that Stearns was offended by some his comments and that he apologized when told about her objections.
His remarks included calling her the athletic department or field house "whore," and other obscene comments, he said yesterday.
He denied telling anyone that he wanted to have sex with Stearns or that she was available for sex. He also denied calling her at home with requests for sex in September 1991, about a month after she joined Morgan's staff.
According to testimony, Diggs made an obscene comment about Stearns while he was in Florida for a game against Florida A&M; in November 1992. When Stearns heard about it, she confronted Diggs when he returned to Morgan.
"How would you feel if I called you a little, black nigger?" she said, according to Diggs. Stearns is white.
With his eyes reddening and voice choking with emotion yesterday, Diggs said: "There's no word in the English language that cuts a black person deeper than the word nigger."
He said he was so angry, he told Stearns, "I don't know if I have the power, but I'm going to do everything in my power to get you fired."
Stearns filed an internal claim of verbal sexual harassment soon after the confrontation.
After a meeting with Stearns and university officials, Diggs was reprimanded in writing Nov. 24, 1992, for his "verbal abuse" of Stearns and his players. Stearns was removed from direct supervision of football players that month and was transferred out of the athletic department the next March.
Diggs alleged that Stearns undermined his authority, had sexual relationships with assistant coaches and players and wore revealing clothes, but said his desire to get her fired had nothing to do with her being a white woman.
Stearns has denied having sexual relationships with assistant coaches and players.