A former university women’s volleyball coach who was sacked in November, said his department’s decision was based on the fact that he is gay.

James Finley, the former women’s volleyball coach at Virginia Commonwealth University, has said he was dismissed for being gay, and that unless he is reinstated, he will take the matter to court, ESPN reports. 

He has lodged a complaint with VCU’s Office for Institutional Equity, and a spokesperson for the university, Pamela D Lepley, said an investigation is under way, and should take no longer than 45 days.

Mr Finley, 52, said he will not hesitate to seek legal action if he is not reinstated after the investigation.

He was asked to leave on 19 November, which was the day after the VCU volleyball team lost in the semi-finals of the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament.

The team, named The Rams, finished 25-6, which was their best winning percentage in Mr Finley’s eight-year tenure.

The decision to sack him, was not based on the team’s performance, he claims, saying that Athletic Director, Ed McLaughlin, and Executive Associate Athletic Director, Jeff Cupps, told him his win-loss record was not the reason for his dismissal at the end of his contract, on 31 December, but that they would help him find a new job, and write him a letter of recommendation.

The former coach said that he thought that Mr McLaughlin, who was appointed in mid-August “just doesn’t want a gay person representing his athletic department.” He said that when the director started at the university, he started to feel isolated.

A press release from the department, from Mr McLaughlin, said: “Our program needs a different direction and different leadership to attain our goals of achieving at an elite level nationally.”

Mr Finley said he had discussed the matter with his husband, and had come to the conclusion that to walk away, rather than fighting for his job, would send the wrong message.

“When you’ve fought discrimination your whole life, you’re used to code things like ‘new direction,’ ‘we want someone to represent us well,’” Finley said. “In other words, I don’t want a gay person representing me well.”

He said that he hoped the university’s investigation would look at his team’s athletic record, and that he hoped that would be the basis for its conclusion.

He said: “You always want to be judged on your work,” he said, “not on who you love.”