Former Morton College athletic director, women’s basketball coach Jason Nichols fired after investigation

College concluded Nichols violated employment agreement

Former Montini and Morton College coach Jason Nichols works from the bench in this 2020 file photo. Nichols was fired in March after a college investigation discovered that Nichols violated his employment agreement, according to one of two letters received by the Shaw Local News Network through a Freedom of Information Act request appeal.

Former Morton College athletic director and women’s basketball coach Jason Nichols was fired in March after a college investigation discovered that Nichols violated his employment agreement, according to one of two letters received by the Shaw Local News Network through a Freedom of Information Act request appeal.

The Cicero Police Department also is conducting an “ongoing criminal investigation” concerning “illegal activity that involved Nichols” according to another letter.

Details about Nichols’ departure and the ongoing criminal investigation were revealed in two letters Morton College attorney Terrence Casey sent to Illinois Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Silver after Shaw Local filed appeals to two denied FOIA requests. The Attorney General forwarded the letters to Shaw Local as part of the appeal process.

In an April 26 letter Casey wrote to the Attorney General, Casey revealed that on Feb. 2 the college placed Nichols on “unpaid administrative leave because the college began a formal investigation into allegations of misconduct.”

On Feb. 16, Morton College President Keith McLaughlin recommended to the Community College District No. 527 Board of Trustees that Nichols’ contract be terminated for cause after the investigation found “substantial evidence that he violated his employment agreement.”

The board terminated Nichols’ contract effective March 18.

Morton College declined multiple requests to comment on personnel matters. Nichols couldn’t be reached for comment.

Casey also mentioned an ongoing criminal investigation by Cicero police when arguing why one of Shaw Local’s records requests was denied. In an April 2 letter, Casey wrote Shaw Local’s request was denied because “the town of Cicero’s Police Department is utilizing the contents of the emails, which are essential for investigating the disciplinary case against Nichols.”

He also noted “releasing these records could jeopardize the ongoing criminal investigation by potentially revealing sensitive information about the college’s financial transactions and other relationships concerning illegal activity that involved Nichols, thus hindering law enforcement efforts.”

Cicero police declined to comment whether they were conducting an investigation into Nichols.

Shaw Local filed two appeals with the Attorney General when both of its records requests were denied by the college. The first appeal was submitted after a records request the company submitted Feb. 15 ultimately was rejected by the college March 13, beyond the extended time frame allowed by state law. Shaw Local also submitted a second appeal for another denied request.

Both appeals are under review by the Attorney General.

Other college employees also may have been involved in Nichols’ alleged misconduct. In one of the letters, Casey noted that releasing the documents Shaw Local requested “could impede the ability to conduct a fair and thorough disciplinary process because they may contain information pertinent to the allegations against Nichols and other college employees regarding their alleged misconduct.”

At least one employee, whose name was redacted in both of Casey’s letters, was terminated during a recent board meeting. In total, four former athletic department employees’ contracts were terminated in recent board meetings although it’s not clear whether the terminations were related to one another or Nichols.

According to the board’s Feb. 28 meeting minutes, the board approved the immediate termination of former women’s basketball assistant coach Teresa Alderman and the termination of the college’s Director of Adult, Career and Technical Education Grants and Compliance Wesley Gathings, effective that day.

The board also approved the termination of former assistant athletic director Kevin McManaman, effective March 25.

At its meeting March 27, board minutes showed it approved the termination of the college’s Athletic & Fitness Center Program Assistant Carla Fortuna effective that day.

Additionally, through her union, one of the recently terminated employees – who Casey wrote was “dismissed during the recent college board meeting due to her association with Mr. Nichols’ misbehavior and alleged unlawful actions” – initiated a just cause grievance process concerning her termination, which is presently unresolved and still pending.

Alderman, Gathings, McManaman and Fortuna could not be reached for comment.

Despite the circumstances of his departure, Nichols has a longstanding reputation as a talented coach in the state. Nichols became the college’s athletic director and women’s basketball coach in 2020 after a long run as a girls basketball head coach at Montini Catholic High School in Lombard.

Nichols helped Morton become one of the top women’s basketball teams in National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association Division II and accomplished many firsts for the program.

Under Nichols’ leadership, Morton reached the NJCAA national tournament for the first time in program history in 2021 and won three straight Region IV titles and two straight Skyway Conference championships before this past season. The Panthers lost in the NJCAA title game in 2022 and took fifth in the tournament in 2023.

Nichols had a decorated career as the head girls basketball coach at both Trinity High School in River Forest and Montini. In 20 seasons, he finished with a 590-94 record, leading Trinity to a state finals berth in 2003 and Montini to four state championships and 10 overall state finals appearances.

The Illinois Basketball Coaches Association inducted Nichols into its hall of fame in 2020.

Michal Dwojak

Michal Dwojak

Michal is a sports enterprise reporter for Shaw Local, covering the CCL/ESCC for Friday Night Drive and other prep sports for the Northwest Herald. He also is a Chicago Bears contributing writer. He previously was the sports editor for the Glenview Lantern, Northbook Tower and Malibu Surfside News.