Tag:Central Florida
Posted on: July 1, 2011 12:35 pm
Edited on: July 4, 2011 11:35 am

Dueling settlement accusations in Plancher case

The two sides continue to squabble a day after what is believed to be the largest award in a wrongful death lawsuit involving sickle cell trait.

Steve Yerrid, the lead attorney in the Ereck Plancher wrongful death suit told CBSSports.com Friday that Central Florida turned down a $4.7 million offer to settle the case. After first denying on Friday morning that such an offer was made, a Central Florida spokesman later confirmed the offer. It was rejected, he said, by the school's insurance carriers. Central Florida says that during the trial, Yerrid proposed a settlement for more than the $10 million eventually awarded Plancher's parents on Thursday. It too was rejected.

A jury decided Thursday night that the school's athletic association was negligent in the March 2008 death of Plancher. An autopsy showed that the player died from complications due to sickle cell trait. Plancher's parents were awarded $5 million each. The jury did not award punitive damages. Heston reiterated that the school plans to appeal.

Yerrid also said Friday morning he would be filing a motion to recoup approximately $2 million attorney's fees and costs from the defendants.

"A while ago we filed a proposal for settlement for $4.7 million ... We offered to settle the case for $4.7 million," Yerrid said. "Their response was zero ... It will be an even dozen [million dollars] before it gets done. When you have a scorched-earth defense, you get scorched."

Plancher died after collapsing during an offseason, non-contact workout in March 2008. Twenty-one college football players have died from exertional stress in non-contact drills since 2000. Approximately half of those were related to complications from sickle cell trait.

"I think the fact that punitive damages were not awarded shows that there was no credence to allegations that Coach [George] O'Leary withheld water or ordered trainers out [of the football facility]," said that spokesman Grant Heston.

Heston added that it was not the school's decision to accept a settlement -- "The insurance company calls the shots." He said the $10 million falls within the boundaries of the insurance coverage.

Three other high-profile cases involving sickle cell trait all ended in settlements for significantly less than $10 million at Florida State, Missouri and Rice.

Yerrid, a noted attorney in liability and wrongful death cases, said the verdict would rank "in the top 20" in his career. He won an $11.4 billion settlement from the tobacco industry in 1997. In 2006, his client was awarded $216 million in a medical malpractice suit. At the time it was believed to be the largest medical malpractice award in a jury trial in Florida's history.

"The fact that other parents will be spared this horrific tragedy, that's what's important for the sports world," Yerrid said of the Plancher verdict. "It directly affects the sickle cell athlete. That effect will certainly carry over to all athletics, reestablishing that student-athlete welfare should be at the front of the list, not at the back."

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: July 1, 2011 12:51 am
Edited on: July 1, 2011 1:23 am

$10 million not enough to replace Ereck Plancher

What's a life worth? A life that could easily have been saved.

Is it worth a coach's job? His AD's? Is it worth the entire Central Florida football program? Absolutely.

Is a life worth $10 million?

No, a life is priceless, precious. But a judgment had to be made Thursday night by a six-person jury that decided that the second-largest university in the country was essentially at fault in the death of Ereck Plancher.

Three years after their son's death and two weeks into the wrongful death lawsuit over it, Enock and Gisele Plancher got "justice." A $5 million award for each doesn't replace him, but it sends a powerful message to anyone in college athletics dumb enough not to be familiar with sickle cell trait by now.

Dumb, because the first documented case occurred at Colorado more than 35 years ago. Dumb, because the NCAA recently began mandatory testing (under certain conditions). Dumb, because even with all that preventable deaths mount.

Dumb, because among the first words from a school spokesman Thursday night was "appeal." The next news out of Central Florida should be the resignation of AD Keith Tribble and coach George O'Leary. If not resignation, then firing. The $10 million represents about a third of the school's athletic budget. 

A kid died on their watch during a damn offseason drill. Everything since then has been botched, bungled and embarrassing. The $10 million award makes it a landmark case in the history of sickle cell trait legal battles. Hopefully, someone other than the Plancher jury is paying attention.

Central Florida could have gotten some cheap, legal advice by simply getting on Google. Florida State, Missouri and Rice all settled similar cases. In May, the family of an Ole Miss player filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school and NCAA. Once again, sickle cell trait is involved.
Instead, Central Florida took this one to the wall arguing, incredibly, that Plancher died due to a heart condition. Each side presented its own set of experts, but the moment Plancher's parents took the stand this trial was over. Their testimony was compelling, emotional, raw

Still, Central Florida pressed on. In the end, the jury needed only five hours to determine that the Central Florida Athletics Association was negligent and didn't do everything in its power to save Plancher's life. His parents got money, not justice. Maybe that was saved for future players whose coaches and trainers educate themselves because of this verdict.

Twenty-one players have died since 2000 directly due to exertional stress during non-contact drills. Sickle cell trait remains the leading killer of college football players since that year.

Oklahoma knows all about sickle trait. Its head trainer Scott Anderson is one of the leading authorities on the condition because he chooses to be. Several Sooners have played with the trait and gone on to win major awards. If you're educated and, well, care it's not that hard to deal with the sickle cell athlete. Essentially, they need to be acclimated and ease into strenuous exercise.

"I think [the verdict] was the right decision, absolutely," Anderson said. "Hopefully it will have some impact. Hopefully some people are sitting up and listening. Then again, I don't know why there hasn't been any impact with the other dead football players and the other millions of dollars paid out. It's been business as usual."

From the beginning this case had the vibe of an arrogant university diving into the deep end of the legal pool without water wings. High-powered attorney doesn't begin to describe the plaintiffs' lead counsel. Steve Yerrid is the lawyer who got a $11.4 billion settlement from the tobacco industry in 1997 while representing the state of Florida.

Yes, it might have been a good idea to settle. Now someone -- preferably more than one -- has to pay -- not with cash, but with their job.

Ten million isn't enough to bring back Ereck Plancher but it shouts to the world that sickle cell trait isn't dangerous. Ignorance to it is.

Posted on: June 30, 2011 10:57 pm

UCF guilty in death of Ereck Plancher

The University of Central Florida was ruled guilty of negligence Thursday night in the 2008 death of Ereck Plancher.

The jury awarded Plancher's family a total of $10 million. The jury did not award punitive damages. The award is believed to be the most ever in a case involving sickle cell trait. The condition has been responsible for the death of 11 college football players since 2000. An autopsy said that Plancher died of sickle cell trait after a workout.  
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: June 30, 2011 10:16 pm

Verdict pending in Plancher wrongful death suit

The jury is in deliberations Thursday night in the wrongful death lawsuit of Central Florida player Ereck Plancher.

More than three years after his death and two weeks into the trial, the jury began deliberating the case at approximately 5:30 pm ET. Plancher's parents are asking for unspecified damages.

You can see a live stream of the court proceedings here.

This Orlando Sentinel story sums up the case to date.  
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: June 10, 2011 12:46 pm
Edited on: June 10, 2011 1:05 pm

Central Florida sickle cell lawsuit goes to trial

A more than three-year legal battle involving the death of a former Central Florida player will proceed to trial on Monday.

The school lost its final legal challenge this week allowing the wrongful death lawsuit of the family of Ereck Plancher to go before a jury. Plancher, 19, collapsed and later died from complications of sickle cell trait in March 2008 following a strenuous offseason workout at the school. The family is seeking unspecified damages.

A circuit court this week denied Central Florida's request for a new judge to preside over the trial. School attorneys argued that circuit judge Robert Evans comments about Knights coach George O'Leary were prejudicial.

During a May ruling, Evans said, " ... Coach O'Leary doesn't seem to be the sharpest knife in the drawer ..." Central Florida previously argued that the jury shouldn't be told the school did not inform Plancher's parents of their son's condition because it would have violated federal privacy laws.

"They are devastated," family attorney J.D. Dowell said of Plancher's parents. "Obviously a parent is not supposed to outlive their child.

Along the way, the family won a key ruling in March. A former teammate of Plancher's said O'Leary banned water and banished trainers prior to Plancher's collapse. Based on that information, a judge said the family could proceed with an uncapped punitive damages lawsuit against the school. Florida law typically caps compensation in such wrongful death cases at $200,000.

Two recent, similar high-profile cases involving deaths due to sickle cell trait ended in settlements by the schools. Missouri settled with the family of player Aaron O'Neal for $2 million in 2009. That same year, Rice and the NCAA settled with the family of player Dale Lloyd II. As a result of that settlement, the NCAA agreed to mandate sickle cell trait testing under certain conditions and start an education program.

Since then, the NCAA has been sued again over the issue. The association and Ole Miss were named in a wrongful death lawsuit filed last month by the family of former Mississippi player Bennie Abram. Abram died in February 2010 following an early offseason workout due to complications from sickle cell trait. 

Abram was the 21st NCAA football player to die from a non-traumatic event since 2000. Eleven of those deaths have come in Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). Sickle cell trait remains the leading killer of Division I football players since that year.

The trial is expected to last three weeks.
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: March 26, 2011 2:50 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2011 2:51 pm

A small victory for player welfare

Ereck Plancher may be gone but his story is still alive. Thank goodness, because we are not soon going to forget it.

Plancher died three years ago this month due to complications from sickle cell trait while involved in offseason drills at Central Florida. A former teammate says coach George O'Leary banned water and banished trainers prior to Plancher's collapse. Based on that information, a Florida judge said the family could go ahead with a punitive damages lawsuit against the school. Florida law typically caps compensation in such wrongful death cases. This means the suit can go forward.

At stake are a lot of reputations. Certainly, the NCAA's rep is out there again. It was only last year it began recommending that programs test for sickle cell trait. In this case, and the case of several other athletes since the beginning of this century, they were a little late. Central Florida AD Keith Tribble's future could be impacted. Tribble's name has come up for the Miami AD vacancy. Tribble, a former Orange Bowl executive director, has extensive ties to South Florida. 

I would mention coach George O'Leary but he appears to be coated with Teflon. Not only did Plancher die but another one of his players, Brandon Davis, collapsed nine months later. I asked the coach of a Knights' recruit if he had been told by Central Florida recruiters what happened to Davis

Davis was "dehydrated," the high school coach was told. 

"[They] think he was at a late-night party beforehand," the coach added.

That about sums it up, right? Kid was partying. It was his fault. That's not enough for the Florida judicial system in the Plancher case.

"It's not about compensating the Plancher family, it's about stopping football programs from disregarding the safety of student athletes," said Steven Yerrid, the Plancher's attorney. "That's the message. Punitive damage is not designed to compensate the plaintiffs. They're designed to punish the wrongdoers and send a message that that type of conduct will not be allowed. We intend to send that message across the collegiate community. Those that haven't listened, will start listening." 

This is one small victory for players' welfare. When they sign scholarship papers, no one tells them that it took 35 years for the NCAA to make sickle cell trait testing mandatory. It doesn't update them on the lawsuits that continue to pour in. Or that the football culture doesn't send players to the hospital, workouts do.

Thank God, Ereck Plancher's story is still alive, even if he isn't. 
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 1, 2010 11:38 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2010 12:16 am

Big East possibly discussing expansion on Tuesday

Big East presidents and athletic directors will meet Tuesday to discuss possible expansion, the New York Post reported on Monday.

The Post originally broke the story of Big East's interest in seemingly unlikely expansion candidate TCU. The interest turned out to be reciprocal. If you believe that college football is trending toward the mega-conference, then schools need to get into a BCS conference before the window of opportunity closes.

The Big East is interested in staying relevant by remaining one of those BCS conferences. It received a waiver to remain an automatic qualifier conference by the other BCS commissioners in the past because of television's desire to have those Northeast markets. With conference realignment anything but dead, commissioner John Marinatto wants to protect his league from poachers. Earlier this year, the Big Ten was a threat to the Big East. Rutgers emerged as an attractive addition to the Big Ten and perhaps will remain one in the future. The Big Ten eventually settled on Nebraska -- for now.

TCU is looking for its own relevance. The loss of BYU and Utah has damaged the Mountain West's ongoing attempt to get at least a temporary BCS bid in 2012 and 2013. TCU has shown a willingness to conference hop to improve its profile since being left out of the Big 12 in 1996. Ironically, if the Horned Frogs get a second consecutive bowl bid this year it would have gotten a huge boost from beating resurgent  Baylor. TCU was left out of the Big 12 in favor of Baylor 15 years ago, mostly because of a political power play by then-Texas governor Ann Richards.

"If you're not aligned with an automatic qualifying conference prior to the super realignment you have no shot," CBS College Sports analyst Aaron Taylor said. "At least if you're there to begin with, you're in the topic of conversation and discussion. On paper, you'd think that TCU being in Texas doesn't make sense. But they're the furtherst team to the East in the Mountaint West. They would be the same distance, but West, to the Big East."

Other schools being mentioned for Big East expansion are Houston, Central Florida and either Temple or Villanova from Philadelphia. TCU and Central Florida seem to be the most likely expansion candidates at this point.

Posted on: October 1, 2010 12:18 am

Son of Weekend Watch List

The Pistol formation is sweeping the country, if you consider sweeping a list of about 10 schools. The variation on the shotgun was invented by veteran Nevada coach Chris Ault in 2005. It features a quarterback four yards behind center and a running back three yards behind him.

The advantage for the offense is more downhill running than in a zone read where the running back frequently is running parallel to the line. Because the backfield is essentially in an I-formation it's harder for defenses to target their blitzes. Alabama, Arkansas, Boise State, Duke, Indiana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and UCLA are using it in varying degrees this season.

Nevada (at UNLV) is 4-0 for the first time since 1992 and ranked in the AP poll for the first time since 1948.

Boise State (at New Mexico State) is chasing a national championship.

UCLA (vs. Washington State) switched to it to jump start its offense this season. The Pistol produced 264 rushing yards last week against Texas.

Alabama, Boise, Indiana (vs. Michigan) and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are undefeated.

"Most great ideas are born out of necessity," UCLA's Rick Neuheisel said. "We needed to run the football better. Looking at the equipment we had, it just wasn't working. We had to accept that. We were very fortunate to have been given some great advice from the University of Nevada coaching staff. We kind of poured ourselves into it. It was a little bit of a leap of faith." ...

NC State (hosting Virginia Tech)  is ranked for the first time in seven years ... In a game that might go a long way toward deciding the ACC's best quarterback (non-Russell Wilson division), Miami's Jacory Harris plays at Clemson against Kyle Parker. Each of the last three games between the teams have gone into overtime ... Former Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis goes against the Vols for the first time when Tennessee visits LSU ... The problem at LSU is offense, specifically Jordan Jefferson's passing. Jefferson has yet to throw a touchdown pass and has completed less than half his passes to go with three interceptions ... A.J. Green returns for Georgia in its game at Colorado. The losing coach should check the temperature of his chair. Mark Richt and Dan Hawkins, are all but on notice about their job security ...  Florida Wildcat sensation Trey Burton is the grandson of Lawrence Burton who finished fourth in the 100 meters at the '72 Olympics, was a first-round pick of the Saints and played receiver at Purdue ...

Not surprisingly, the Big Ten and the SEC combined have almost half the teams in the top 25 (six each). You can see what this is coming down to: The Big Ten and/or SEC champion vs. Boise State in the polls/BCS/public discussion ... Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh on playing at Oregon:  "Just thinking about it, we're going to be ready to walk out of that tunnel, 80,000 screaming Duck fans. We'll have our team huddled around us beneath that stadium. It doesn’t get any better than that. I'm getting excited thinking about it." Sounds lyrical except that Autzen Stadium seats only 54,000 ... Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker will miss his fourth consecutive game because of what are reportedly complications from diabetes ...  The Sun Belt player of the year so far is Troy's Jernell Jernigan. The sophomore receiver is second nationally in all-purpose yards (208 per game). In addition to averaging almost 100 yards in receptions per game, Jernigan returns kicks and punts and lines up in the Wildcat. Troy is No. 14 in total offense and plays perhaps the Sun Belt game of the year Tuesday at Middle Tennessee ... Central Florida's George O'Leary (Wednesday vs. Alabama-Birmingham) is 1-19 against BCS teams. That's the same record as the man he replaced in 2004, Mike Kruczek. That's according to research done by CBSSports.com's Matt Brodsky.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com