ALBANY, NY (NEWS10) — Former University at Albany basketball player Luke Fizulich has filed a federal lawsuit against UAlbany head coach Dwayne Killings, athletic director Mark Benson, and the university.
The lawsuit, which was filed Monday in the Northern District of New York, dates back to a pregame incident on November 24th, 2021. The lawsuit alleges Killings, “violently and viciously grabbed (Fizulich), threw him up against a locker and struck him in the face, drawing blood.”
The Daily Gazette first reported the lawsuit.
At the time, UAlbany conducted an investigation into the incident and found Killings made inappropriate physical contact with an unnamed player. The university suspended Killings five games, and he was fined $25,000 in response to the investigation. Killings served the final game of his suspension on Monday.
The lawsuit also alleges Benson and the university reversed a decision to fire Killings due to pressure from local civil rights groups. The lawsuit states, “Rather than discuss its decision, Defendant SUNY Albany and Defendant Benson, succumbing to the pressure of the protest, reversed the decision to terminate Defendant Killings on April 1, 2022. Defendant SUNY Albany and Defendant Benson did not discuss the decision to reverse Defendant Killings’ termination with Fiuzlich, despite the decision being detrimental to his well-being.”
The lawsuit goes on to state, “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. Notably, Fizulich is a white male.”
Fiuzlich’s attorney, Stuart Bernstein, issued the following statement to News10 ABC:
The facts of this lawsuit couldn’t be any clearer — Coach Killings physically and publicly assaulted our client, student athlete Luke Fizulich, by violently hitting him in the face in the basketball locker room, to the point of drawing blood and busting stitches in his mouth. The assault is not in question, as Coach Killings has admitted it. This is inexcusable conduct for a Division I college coach and SUNY Albany was correctly intending to terminate Coach Killings for the physical assault of a student athlete—until community pressure made them reverse their initial decision.
Once SUNY Albany reversed their decision to terminate Coach Killings, they placed the victim of the assault at great risk of harm and retaliation by the coach and others. As a result, Mr. Fizulich, the victim, was blacklisted at other schools and has been unsuccessful in his endeavor to find another school with a basketball program that would allow him on their team. His dreams of playing basketball in college and pursuing a basketball career in Europe are shattered, all stemming from the violent assault and retaliation by Coach Killings, and SUNY Albany’s deliberate indifference to Luke Fizulich.Stuart Bernstein, Attorney to Luke Fiuzlich
Killings could not be reached for comment. Benson referred News10 to a University at Albany spokesman, who issued the following statement:
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. 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.UAlbany spokesman
We’ll continue to keep you updated on-air and online as this story develops.