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Notre Dame: Guilty As Charged

A U.S. District Court jury on Wednesday found Notre Dame guilty of age discrimination, awarding an ex-assistant coach about $86,000 in back pay and damages.

Former offensive line coach Joe Moore, 66, sat stoically as the verdict was read.

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  • He didn't even crack a smile as the jury awarded him $42,935.28 in back pay and then doubled that amount by finding Notre Dame knowingly disregarded the law.

    He later said he was grateful to the jury and when asked about the emotional toll of the trial, Moore just smiled and mumbled, "I'm tired."

    Irish coach Bob Davie said he was relieved the trial was over.

    "I'm looking forward to getting back to what I do best -- coaching football," he said.

    The jury also awarded Moore court costs and lawyer fees, which are expected to total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Moore also is seeking pay for the years he expected to continue coaching at Notre Dame past the date Davie fired him in December 1996. A July 28 hearing was scheduled in a South Bend federal court to determine whether any such pay will be awarded.

    Moore's lawyer, Richard Lieberman, said the trial wasn't about money, but rather proving that Notre Dame wasn't "above the law."

    Notre Dame athletic director Mike Wadsworth said university lawyers hadn't decided whether to appeal and said he found some consolation in the jury's decision. Saying Moore had demanded $1.3 million to settle the case before a trial, he said the jury seemed to support Notre Dame's position that it was an outrageous sum.

    "Notre Dame has never made a practice of age discrimination and we didn't make a practice of age discrimination in this case," he said.

    Wadsworth also said the university understood it would sufer an emotional toll from the trial. Testimony revealed, for instance, that Davie questioned former coach Lou Holtz's sanity during the 1996 season, former assistant Earl Mosley claimed Holtz assaulted him during a football game and Moore testified he once disciplined players for spying on two Irish cheerleaders who were having oral sex in a hotel room.

    "It's not our proudest moment," Wadsworth said.

    Notre Dame lawyers had tried to convince jurors that Moore was fired because he abused players and didn't represent a positive image of Irish football. They introduced two key incidents in which Moore admitted to striking players, asking them if they'd allow their sons to play football for such a coach.

    University lawyer Bill Hoye likened Moore's treatment of players to child abuse and said some Irish lineman remained loyal to Moore much like a child remains loving of an abusive parent.

    "I am talking to you about a coach who crossed the line, a coach who abused his players," Hoye said before smacking his hands together five times to illustrate on incident in which Moore is said to have struck five offensive linemen in 1995.

    Notre Dame lawyers also tried to convince jurors that Davie wanted continuity in his coaching staff and decided not to rehire Moore because he had talked of retiring in another year or two.

    But during his instructions to jurors, U.S. Judge Allen Sharp told them continuity is not a legitimate reason for terminating an employee, especially if the employer believed the employee would soon retire.

    Lieberman told jurors during closing arguments Wednesday morning that continuity was just Davie's code word for age discrimination. He reminded them that Davie himself testified he had remarked about Moore's age to an assistant out of frustration.

    "Why was he frustrated?" Lieberman said. "He was frustrated because he thought that at that age Moore was too old and should just get out of the way."

    The trial started Thursday and went through the weekend. The jury of five women and three men began deliberating the case about noon Wednesday and reached a verdict a little more than four hours later.

    © 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved

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