Investigation of discrimination claims by Fresno State coach concludes. Here’s what it found

An investigation into claims of racial discrimination brought last March by Fresno State basketball coach Justin Hutson concluded that he was not discriminated against.

Hutson, who is Black, alleged that his race was a factor in the level of financial resources and support that athletics director Terry Tumey provided to a program that ranks toward the bottom of the Mountain West Conference in operating revenue and expenses.

But a preponderance of evidence did not support those claims, according to the summary report from the Oakland-based Oppenheimer Investigations Group, which specializes in workplace and school investigations.

The investigation did, however, delay a parting between Hutson and the university, which was preparing to fire the coach at the end of the 2022-2023 season.

Hutson coached the sixth and final year of his contract, finishing 12-21 this season including a 4-14 record and ninth-place finish in the Mountain West. Hutson and the university announced that he would not return following a loss to Utah State in the quarterfinal round of the conference tournament.

The summary of findings was obtained by The Bee through a public records request. The full report, according to a university spokesperson, will be made available once all appropriate redactions have been applied.

In it, Tumey, who also is Black, told investigators that he found it “reprehensible” that such a charge was levied against him as a Black man.

Several witnesses said the lack of resources for men’s basketball seemed evident and out of the ordinary, and that they suspect the lack of support for the program was deliberate. But the report found that they could not provide examples where Tumey withheld resources from the program, according to the summary report.

There also was evidence that contradicted Hutson’s accounts of how he and the team were supported, and showed that the challenges he faced were not unique to his relationship with Tumey, or to his team.

There were witnesses, including some close to Hutson, that suggested alternative reasons for the contentiousness between Hutson and Tumey that were unrelated to race. Hutson, for one, had been hired by Fresno State two months before Tumey. He was not “his guy,” according to the report. The Bulldogs also were going through a dismal 11-21 season a year ago, never winning more than two games in a row.

A number of witnesses also said the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted university and athletics department revenues. The investigators wrote in the report that it is “reasonable to conclude” the lack of basketball funding was in large part due to financial constraints that were outside of Tumey’s control.

A preponderance of evidence, according to the summary report, did not support a finding that Hutson’s race was a factor in the level of support and resources Tumey provided to Hutson and the basketball program.


The first five paragraphs of the summary report, which likely included a list of witnesses interviewed by the Oakland-based Oppenheimer Investigations Group, were redacted. But subsequent paragraphs included the last names of assistant coaches, staff and athletics and university administrators.

One allegation from Hutson: Tumey made no effort to retain (assistant coach Tim) Shelton and (assistant coach Tarvish) Felton because they and Hutson are Black.

But (former deputy athletic director/chief operating officer Jason) Cappadoro said he and Tumey attempted to secure a $30,000 raise for Felton, who left after the 2022 season for New Mexico. Shelton also acknowledged that he received a $20,000 raise after receiving a job offer from San Diego State. He left the Fresno State program after the 2022 season as well, taking a job at Oregon State.

Two witnesses said that Fresno State basketball received more resources in terms of medical support, meals and travel compared to other teams in the athletics department, including women’s basketball, baseball, volleyball and golf. That contention is backed up by the financial reports the athletics department submits annually to the NCAA, and further weakened the claim by Hutson that Tumey did not support him and his team.

Those documents show that operating expenses for the Bulldogs’ basketball program increased by $597,189 from 2019-20 to 2022-23, the second largest gain coming out of the pandemic for any of the sports programs on campus, behind only football.

The investigation also found that there appeared to be other individuals and factors that impacted the resources Hutson and his team received. It was not just Tumey making those decisions. Most notably, according to the report, there was evidence that Cappadoro, university president Saúl Jimenéz-Sandoval and (vice president of administration Debbie) Adishian-Astone were involved in determining the budget that Hutson’s team received.

The Bulldogs’ athletics director did not unilaterally determine the budget for the basketball program, and there were checks and balances in place to correct for any inequities, the report says.

Given that, it seemed unlikely, according to the report, that Tumey could have unjustly withheld funding from the basketball program, as Hutson alleged.

Tumey and the university agreed to a mutual separation on March 21.


Fresno State, which was preparing to fire Hutson at the end of the 2023 season, pulled back after attorneys representing the Bulldogs’ coach sent university president Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval a letter just before the Mountain West Tournament last March that included allegations of racial discrimination and implicit threats of legal action.

Rather than fire Hutson the university initiated the investigation, which was conducted by Zaneta Seidel and Jack Morse of the Oppenheimer Investigations Group.

Two other allegations pinned to race addressed in the summary report also were not fully substantiated or sustained. Those centered around whether Tumey and senior associate athletics director for external relations Frank Pucher, the sport supervisor, undermined or tried to create a pretext for Hutson’s termination or whether they falsely accused the Bulldogs’ former coach of NCAA violations, and, if so, whether race was a factor in doing so.

Tumey, according to the summary report, acknowledged that he told Hutson prior to the conference tournament in 2023 that he needed to have a good showing.

But Jimenéz-Sandoval confirmed to investigators that this message originated with him. The university president said he told Hutson directly that he needed to make a strong showing in the tournament. A university president communicating with a coach in that way may not be too common. But football coach Jeff Tedford, who was interviewed by investigators, said he had received a call from Jimenéz-Sandoval after his team lost four games in a row in its 2022 season, questioning the team’s performance.

Jimenéz-Sandoval also corroborated that he and Tumey decided after the team’s loss in the conference tournament in 2023 to move forward with firing Hutson.

The allegations of NCAA rules violations and other alleged misconduct were investigated for the university by the law firm Bond, Schoeneck & King. But, according to the investigative report, those claims were first reported anonymously to the NCAA, which then alerted Jimenéz-Sandoval and Tumey.

None of the NCAA allegations against Hutson came from Tumey or any other athletics administrators.

Bond, Schoeneck & King investigated 14 allegations, but none were fully substantiated by the law firm.