Whitcomb sues North Idaho College over firing

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COEUR d’ALENE — The former North Idaho College head wrestling coach who was fired in January after more than 21 seasons has filed a claim for damages against the college.

Whitcomb’s claim accuses the college of discrimination, harming his reputation as well as retaliation and misconduct.

The filing, which names NIC Board Clerk Shannon Goodrich, seeks a jury trial but does not ask for a monetary amount. A tort claim filed last summer estimated damages of between $50,000 and $100,000.

North Idaho College spokesperson Laura Rumpler said the college denies wrongdoing and is confident in the judicial process.

“While I (or the college) cannot comment specifically on pending litigation, NIC denies any wrongful conduct and is confident that any judicial process will afford clarity and bring the truth and facts to light,” Rumpler said Wednesday.

Whitcomb says in the claim he was targeted after advocating for handicap facilities for athletes, primarily handicapped wrestlers.

“Once NIC had concluded that making the wrestling program accessible would be too expensive, the institute expected Coach Whitcomb to stop discussing the matter,” according to the lawsuit, filed by James Piotrowski, Whitcomb’s Boise attorney.

Despite pushback, Whitcomb refused to stop advocating on behalf of his athletes, according to the lawsuit.

The college, Whitcomb claims, “fabricated a one-sided, illegitimate, subjective” investigation that Whitcomb claims dredged up allegations later determined to have been committed by another coach.

“The college proceeded anyways and fired Whitcomb on pretextual, made-up bases even as it protected the employment of the guilty coach who led NIC into a series of embarrassing collegiate athletic rule violations,” according to the lawsuit.

Whitcomb, who ran the wrestling program from 1997 to 2019, said in an earlier statement to the newspaper that he believes he was fired for speaking out over possible rights and security violations the college was committing against NIC students and employees — not for academic integrity violations, as the college has claimed.

During his tenure, Whitcomb led NIC wrestling teams to four national championships and 18 individual national championships. He coached 108 All-American wrestlers and elevated NIC’s program to a No. 4 ranking in the National Junior College Athletic Association.

Rumpler said NIC’s leadership is responsible for making sure the college’s values aren’t compromised.

“It is the responsibility of NIC’s leadership to make the difficult decisions to ensure employees who serve our students operate with integrity and align with the college’s values of student success and academic excellence,” she said.

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