Two lawsuits have already been filed, and at least six more are expected against Houston Christian University and a former member of their track coaching staff.
Sesar Figueroa served as the associate head track coach and recruiting coordinator for the program.
Lawsuits filed by attorney Tony Buzbee on behalf of his clients accuse Figueroa of “grooming” the women.
“It’s just a differential in power and somebody taking advantage of their position and an administration that looks the other way,” Buzbee said.
The lawsuit alleges the coach bought the female athletes gifts, including a diamond necklace, paid for work to be done on one of the women’s cars, sent them explicit messages, gave them massages, drank with them, and promised them outside jobs “with the understanding that acceptance of these ‘perks’ came with a price — returned sexual favors from the Plaintiff.”
One of the women said she was told that she would have to have sex with the coach after a prestigious track meet if she wanted to participate.
At least one of the young women did have sex with the track coach on multiple occasions and claims it was not always consensual.
“Once he was giving her alcohol, and so forth, she ultimately gave in to him to his demands, and he became very aggressive and in some cases violent,” Buzbee said. “The way she was looking at it was, ‘He could end my athletic career right now,’ so she was in a bad spot.”
Buzbee said it was a sexual assault of one of the athletes in a parking lot that led all of them to come forward.
The lawsuit alleges he “forced himself upon Plaintiff by grabbing her and kissing her full on the mouth.” She pushed him off of her and reported it to the police, which triggered an investigation by the university.
“I think they all agreed the investigation was a complete farce,” Buzbee said. “He was quietly terminated without any sort of explanation, and I think one of the young women shared all of this with her father, and he encouraged her to step forward and do something about it.”
Houston police will not confirm whether they are investigating an incident if charges have not been filed. And Buzbee did not know the status of the police investigation.
The lawsuit includes a photo of a Snapchat message allegedly sent to that female athlete after the parking lot encounter.
“That was pretty out of character yesterday,” the message reads in part. “Just guaranteeing it won’t reoccur… accept my apology. (We now have a secret).”
The attorney said it was common knowledge among the athletes that Figueroa was “flirty” and took some of the female athletes out for drinks. The lawsuit said some of the male athletes reported the coach’s preferential treatment of female athletes to the university, and they did not take action.
Houston Christian University issued the following statement:
“The University has received the lawsuit filed on Dec. 30, 2022. We are troubled by any and all allegations of misconduct between University employees and students. We take all reports of sexual misconduct seriously and have dedicated significant time and resources to ensuring the safety of students on our campus and under our care. When the University was made aware of allegations of misconduct related to this lawsuit, we took appropriate action to respond to these allegations by contacting and cooperating with law enforcement and terminating an assistant track coach. In the situations identified in the lawsuit filed, the University acted lawfully and in good faith, and we expect a court to agree.”
ABC13 could not get in touch with Figueroa for comment. And it is unclear if he has hired an attorney.
On Wednesday, a judge granted an order that will allow Buzbee’s team to collect data from Figueroa’s phone, including Snapchat, and laptop.
The next virtual court date in the case is set for Jan. 18.