Mark Plakorus North Dakota

Montana soccer coach Mark Plakorus during the Grizzlies' game against North Dakota on Oct. 22, 2017.

Former University of Montana women's soccer coach Mark Plakorus, fired last year after revelations he used a university-issued cellphone to text with escort services in Las Vegas, has sued the university for defamation and breach of contract.

The lawsuit, filed May 1 in Missoula County District Court, alleges UM violated Plakorus’ right to privacy and breached its contract with him by releasing certain employment information to media outlets following his dismissal. Additionally, Plakorus alleges the university defamed him in releasing complaints of sexual misconduct that were found to be without merit.

“In its communications, UM wrongfully implied Plakorus committed acts of sexual misconduct, endangered his players’ safety, and inappropriately used UM resources,” attorneys for Plakorus wrote in the lawsuit.

A university spokeswoman on Monday declined to comment on pending litigation.

Plakorus’ lawsuit lists the five college athletic programs that employed him as a soccer coach in his 17-year career before arriving at the University of Montana in 2011. His attorneys cite the lone performance evaluation completed in his time at UM, which highlighted his efforts toward academic and athletic achievements, and how his role on the team produced “‘athletic turn-around’ and success.”

On Jan. 29, 2018, university officials told Plakorus they would not renew his contract, set to expire in five months, according to the filing. The notification followed complaints by “one or more” soccer players against Plakorus to UM. At least one complaint from a player — that Plakorus texted one or more of the players too often or too late at night — lacked merit, a “climate survey” conducted by the university’s Title IX office found.

During that review, however, university officials audited Plakorus’ phone, finding numbers believed to be associated with Las Vegas escort services. As part of his role as head coach, Plakorus’ communications in recruiting potential players fall under scrutiny of the NCAA, and he used his work phone as his personal phone, the lawsuit states. 

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The lawsuit further alleges Plakorus’ employment prospects were stymied by UM’s handling of the matter, but adds he was able to take a job in Idaho. It does not specify the damages sought in the case, but asks a jury determine the amount.

Plakorus leveled the claim that UM had violated his “right to confidentiality,” in an interview with the Missoulian last year, in which he said he was “devastated, disgusted, upset” with the university’s handling of the situation. He denied using an escort service and said he texted women in response to “personal ads.”

Members of the Griz soccer team, however, told the Missoulian last year that more than a dozen players went to Athletic Director Kent Haslam and Senior Athletic Director Jean Gee with complaints that the coach’s behavior made them uncomfortable. A former player contested those allegations to the Missoulian, alleging those players had “a vendetta” against Plakorus for stifling their playing time.

While the complaints brought to university officials did not result in Plakorus’ dismissal, the university’s process in examining those complaints was what turned up the text messages on his university-issued cellphone that prompted officials’ decision to dismiss him, Haslam told the Missoulian at the time.

Plakorus’ split from the university was initially described by the university as the coach’s resignation from the position, and Plakorus told the Missoulian at that time that he was leaving to take care of his ill father. “Always remember family comes first!” he tweeted the day after his dismissal.

When asked about the escort service days later, Plakorus said he went home with some of the women, and that it was his choice how he spent his personal time on recruiting trips. His mistake, he said, was using the university-issued cellphone to respond to personal ads, the Missoulian reported at the time.

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