By STEVEN MARSH
Former Ferrum College Director of Athletics Abe Naff has filed a discrimination charge against the college with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) with regards to his termination, which was confirmed in late July.
Naff has retained the Roanoke law firm of Fishwick & Associates PLC as his representative.
Attorney John P. Fishwick Jr. confirmed in a prepared statement that was released to The Franklin News-Post on Wednesday that Naff has filed the discrimination charge and that his firm is representing him.
“We represent Abe Naff, a man who gave his heart and soul to Ferrum College for 35 years as both a (baseball) coach and as athletic director,’’ Fishwick said in the statement.
Fishwick said Naff, 59, was “fired from his job as athletic director on June 28.’’ College officials have neither confirmed nor denied that Naff was terminated in earlier published media reports.
Fishwick said that the EEOC is investigating Naff charge of discrimination and that upon its completion, Naff “intends to file a lawsuit for unlawful discrimination in federal court if necessary.’’
Fishwick said that neither he nor Naff “would have any further comment beyond the statement.’’
“Neither Abe nor his representatives has contacted us so we can’t comment,’’ Ferrum Vice President for Institutional Advancement Wilson Paine said late Wednesday afternoon. “Once we’ve been contacted, we’ll comment.’’
The situation involving Naff first appeared in the News-Post’s printed edition on June 28; however, a story was published on its website three days earlier (June 25). On that day, the paper made its first inquiries, and Paine said Naff was taking personal leave from his position.
“Abe is taking some time off like many of our faculty and staff do during the summer months. That’s all I can say, and all I’m willing to say,’’ Paine said.
There was no mention from Paine as to whether Naff had stepped down, been replaced, was still under contract or whether he would return.
“...I’m not going to comment on whether (Abe) is still the director of Athletics or any (other) speculation other than to say that he is taking some time off,’’ Paine said.
It was not confirmed until Thursday, July 18 that Naff would not be returning to Ferrum when Paine announced that Gary Holden, the college’s long-time sports information director, had been appointed acting athletic director and that Carrie Hanshue Austin, the Panthers’ field hockey coach, had been named assistant acting athletic director.
No reasons were given as to why Ferrum and Naff had severed a professional relationship lasting almost 35 years.
“Abe Naff has requested that Ferrum not make any comments about him to the press,’’ Paine said. “So we are going to honor his request.’’
Paine did say that the college would be conducting a search for a permanent athletic director. The college posted an opening for a director of athletics on its website on Aug. 19, and the posting has not been removed.
Holden has applied for the job. He and Paine have a past relationship — he was Paine’s tennis coach when Paine was a Ferrum student-athlete.
Naff, a 1981 graduate of Lynchburg College and a former baseball player for the Hornets, was hired in 1985 as Ferrum’s head baseball coach. He succeeded Rick Jones in the position.
Naff served as Ferrum baseball coach for 23 years and compiled a 643-236-3 career record.
During his tenure, Naff led the Panthers to 10 USA South Athletic Conference baseball championships, 10 NCAA Division III regional playoff appearances and a playoff berth in the junior college regionals in his first year as head coach, which was Ferrum’s final year of baseball affiliation with the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).
The Panthers were a seven-time regional runner-up during Naff’s coaching tenure.
Naff replaced Ted Kinder as Ferrum’s director of Athletics in 2004 and was head baseball coach and athletic director until his retirement from baseball in 2007.
Naff is a 1977 graduate of Franklin County High School and was the starting catcher for the Eagles’ Group AAA state runner-up squad that spring.
Naff is slated for induction into the high school’s Sports Hall of Fame on Oct. 18.