CHEYENNE – Laramie County Community College has sought a jury trial in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former men’s basketball coach Jason Ficca.
Ficca and his wife, Carmen Ochoa, filed suit in U.S. District Court on June 9. They listed LCCC President Joe Schaffer, interim athletics director Cynthia Henning and executive director for human resources Tammy Maas as defendants. The suit alleges the school violated its own policies for “legacy” employees when it fired him in March 2020 after 13 seasons on the bench. Legacy employees are defined by LCCC as those being hired before 2014.
LCCC’s July 15 response to the suit admits Ficca was a legacy employee with an enforceable contract and was entitled to due process protections, but it denies that its written policies suggest corrective actions before termination, including warnings and performance improvement plans.
LCCC’s rebuttal notes legacy employees may be let go due to reductions in force or “for cause.” The response defines “for cause” reasons as misconduct, incompetency, insubordination or neglect of duty.
Ficca’s suit – which was filed by Greg and Bruce Asay of Associated Legal Group in Cheyenne – alleges the school skipped those steps when it ended his employment. The firing also hampered his ability to continue coaching and damaged his “good name and reputation,” the suit says. Ficca is seeking “injunctive relief in the form of reinstatement to his previous position, a discontinuation of the violation of his constitutional rights or front pay.”
LCCC’s filing denies those claims, but doesn’t specifically rebut them. The “affirmative defenses” portion of the school’s response claims Ficca didn’t take advantage of corrective or preventative actions, didn’t exhaust administrative remedies and “failed to abide” by LCCC’s employment policies.
A pretrial conference is set for July 8, 2022, and a five-day jury trial is set for Aug. 8, 2022.
Ficca’s teams compiled a 209-199 record, posting five seasons of 20 or more wins. The Eagles were one win away from the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament, but lost to Gillette College in the 2017 Region IX championship game.
LCCC went 4-25 during Ficca’s final season. It was 12-19 during the 2018-19 campaign. That was the Eagles’ worst two-year stretch during Ficca’s tenure. They were 17-43 over his first two seasons.
At the time of his dismissal, Ficca told WyoSports he felt the firing was premature and that he had earned the chance to right the ship.
“I’m not naïve. I know that four wins is not good, but I thought there was enough of a track record there, enough history and enough really good performances to realize that this season was an aberration and not the norm,” Ficca said on March 23, 2020. “I’ve shown before that I can turn things around and build things up.”
Henning was reluctant to comment on Ficca’s firing when it happened, but did cite the win-loss record as a factor.
“If you go back and look at the records of the men’s basketball program over the past several years, there has been a decline in what we’ve been able to accomplish,” she said. “We have expectations for the performance of our athletics teams, and we’re looking forward to the future success of our men’s basketball program.”
When called for clarification Thursday morning, Greg Asay asked for questions to be emailed to him. He did not respond to that email.
Stephenson Emery, who is representing LCCC for Williams, Porter, Day and Neville in Casper, also did not return a Thursday call seeking comment and clarification.