Ex-Albany hoops player Luke Fizulich sues coach Dwayne Killings, school
The University of Albany is facing an explosive lawsuit from a former basketball player.
Luke Fizulich, who played guard for the Great Danes as a sophomore last season, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of New York earlier this week. The suit accuses the school of reversing course in firing head coach Dwayne Killings, who allegedly assaulted Fizulich.
Killings, Albany athletic director Mark Benson and the university itself are named in the suit.
According to The Daily Gazette in Albany , Fizulich claims the school yielded “to the pressure of the protest” from local civil rights and business leaders, who were allegedly “rallied up” up by a PR firm aligned with Killings, to change its decision about terminating the basketball coach.
The suit says, “Defendant SUNY Albany and Defendant Benson, instead of protecting Fizulich as the victim of the assault, showed preference to the assaulter because of his race.”
The lawsuit claims this decision was a violation of the school’s Campus and Workplace Violence Prevention Policy and Program. Fizulich is white and Killings is black.
Instead of being fired, Killings served a five-game suspension for the incident.
In the suit, the school is accused of civil rights violations, Benson of breach of contract and Killings of assault and battery and “tortious interference with contract.”
The suit states that Killings “violently and viciously grabbed [Fizulich], threw him up against a locker and struck him in the face, drawing blood.” This incident allegedly occurred before a game against Eastern Illinois last November.
“The University at Albany is committed to providing a safe and supportive environment for all students and fully and impartially investigates all allegations of misconduct against University employees,” the school told the Daily Gazette in a statement. “As the University has previously stated, it immediately began its investigation into this matter and took timely and appropriate action at each stage as new information became available. The University previously disclosed the resolution of that investigation on April 2, 2022. The University cannot comment further on pending litigation.”
Fizulich, who played his high school ball at Archbishop Stepinac, transferred to Albany from Marquette, where Killings had been an assistant prior to landing the Great Danes job.
Killings, who had originally been placed on leave, was ultimately suspended for five games and fined $25,000 following a school investigation. At the time, he wrote an apology that included the admission that “I realize that the physical contact I had with the student-athlete during the pre-game hype circle was inappropriate, and not communicating it to the UAlbany administration was a mistake.”
Fizulich claims that incident has left him “blacklisted” from college hoops.
The suit states he was “advised by those schools that they did not want him because he was ‘messy,’ meaning that because his name was associated with the reported assault and publicized, no school would accept him on their basketball team.
“It was also learned from individuals associated with the collegiate basketball community that Defendant Killings put a negative word out to other schools about Fizulich which caused him to be blacklisted. It did not matter that Fizulich was the victim, and that Defendant Killings committed the vicious and violent act, no school would accept Fizulich into their basketball program.”