A Los Angeles Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order Friday that prohibits Cal State Northridge from hiring a new track coach without telling him or her that fired Coach Bill Webb could be reinstated if he wins his appeal.
Judge John Cole made his ruling after Webb filed a lawsuit against the university in an attempt to regain his job. Webb, 36, was dismissed in May after an evaluation by athletic department chairman Sam Winningham.
Winningham's decision was affirmed by Athletic Director Bob Hiegert and Lennin Glass, dean of the School of Communications and Professional Studies. Contracts of CSUN coaches are renewed annually.
Glass, Winningham, Hiegert and CSUN Vice Provost Donald Cameron, as well as the university, the California State University system and its trustees were named as defendants in the suit.
Lee H. Greene, Webb's attorney, said the judge's decision was an important first legal step for Webb, who recently finished his seventh year as the CSUN coach.
"We were concerned that they were going to hire somebody and then even if Bill wins his grievance, he couldn't get his job back, because they would have given (the new coach) a one-year contract," Greene said.
In advertisements for a new track coach, the university set an application deadline of Aug. 15. Webb did not reapply for the position, which officially opens Monday.
Webb was a successful coach at Northridge, directing teams to top 10 national Division II finishes in each of the past seven years. This season CSUN was second in the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. and seventh in the nation. Webb was named CCAA Coach of the Year.
Greene had wanted the judge to prohibit the university from hiring anyone until Webb's case is resolved.
But Greene admitted that had the judge ruled that way, the university would have been put in a difficult situation, since registration for school begins next week.
Greene said that proceedings on Webb's grievance are scheduled to resume Monday.
In mid-July, Webb met with Glass and Cameron to argue that the university had failed to conform to the provisions of the agreement between the California Faculty Assn. and the university in deciding not to reappoint him.
Webb's argument was rejected July 30.
On Monday, Webb and Greene say they will take the grievance to the office of the chancellor of the Cal State system.
If Webb's request is denied, the case would go to arbitration.
Greene said that as long as the grievance procedure continues, the lawsuit will remain "quiet."
"Hopefully, the university will fulfill its obligation to proceed in the grievance matters, and in less than six months we will have a conclusion to this," Greene said.
Should Webb win on appeal, Greene said the lawsuit might still go ahead, depending on the amount of money Webb loses by being out of work.
Webb is ready to go through the entire process.
"Sooner or later," he said Friday, "my time will come and the university will have to step out of its position as to why I was not reappointed, other than (to say) it's in the best interest of the university."
Northridge administrators have not publicly explained why Webb was fired, citing confidentiality in personnel matters.