Posted on: July 1, 2011 12:51 am
Edited on: July 1, 2011 1:23 am
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 24, 2011 3:02 pm
Oregon has hired noted NCAA troubleshooter Mike Glazier to assist in the processing of the Will Lyles' case, CBSSports.com has learned.
Glazier was one of the pioneering members of the cottage industry that sprung up in the 1980s after a rash of wrongdoing around the country. For a fee, and it's usually significant, schools hire troubleshooters to walk them through the process of an NCAA investigation -- how to "plead", organization of facts, etc.
In essence, Glazier is a defense lawyer for those accused by the NCAA. It should be noted that Oregon is merely under investigation. It has not received its letter of inquiry or notice of allegations from the NCAA. There is plenty of concern, though, in Eugene. The release of public documents Monday makes it appear that Oregon overpaid ($25,000) for a rather shoddy "national recruiting package" from mentor/trainer Will Lyles of Houston.
Glazier works for Bond, Schoeneck and King, an Overland Park, Kan.-based firm that specializes in cleaning up high-profile NCAA cases. He is listed as the founder of the firm's Collegiate Sports Practice Group. Most recently, the firm helped both Tennessee and Boise State during its infractions committee hearings earlier this month in Indianapolis.
Glazier is a former NCAA investigator (seven years) who established a small practice with Mike Slive more than 20 years ago in Chicago to assist schools with NCAA cases. The Slive/Glazier Sports Group was the first sports law practice to concentrate exclusively on representation of schools in NCAA matters. Both have done OK for themselves. Slive is now the SEC commissioner trying to keep his schools out of trouble. His old partner is there to help him if they do.
Posted on: June 24, 2011 11:14 am
Edited on: June 25, 2011 11:13 am
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Former Miami running back Willis McGahee said he would “like to have my ring” if it is found that Ohio State won the 2003 BCS title game while competing with ineligible players.
The validity of that championship has reached no higher than speculation stage, but has been a topic of conversation given Ohio State’s current NCAA problems. McGahee, a former Hurricane great, told CBSSports.com that he still feels that Miami was “cheated” out of a win because of back judge Terry Porter’s controversial pass interference call.
Asked specifically if Miami should be declared national champions if Ohio State won with ineligible players, McGahee said: “I feel we were cheated anyway. We beat them. The pass interference with the eligible, ineligible players. It wouldn’t have made any difference. I can’t get my money back that I missed out on a second ring. If they did [cheat] I’d like to have my ring.”
For Ohio State to be scrutinized, the NCAA would have to decide it is worth going back beyond the four-year statute of limitations to prosecute the Buckeyes. If players competed while ineligible at anytime, Ohio State would likely have to vacate victories. There is more of a chance that the program would have to vacate 2010 wins. There is no evidence that Ohio State played any ineligible players in 2002, only reports that players were receiving extra benefits for long periods of time. Nine years after that season, Al Golden is beginning his first with the Canes.
“He turned Temple around,” McGahee said recently following a workout on campus with several other NFL players. “The fact that he turned that program around says a lot about his character, his coaching staff. The good thing about it is, he came to the University of Miami.”
McGahee ran for 2,080 yards in two seasons at Miami. His college career ended after a devastating knee injury in the fourth quarter of that Ohio State game. McGahee came back, rehabbed his knee and become an effective NFL back over the past eight seasons.
McGahee’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is the same as just-departed Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor. It was Rosenhaus who marketed McGahee during his knee injury, allowing the back to be drafted 23rd overall only 3 ½ months after the injury.
Significant issues remain about Pryor’s talents heading into the supplemental draft.
“He’s [Rosenhaus] going to get in there and talk to the teams, tell them about his client [Pryor], get the word out,” McGahee said. “The knee, he did that. I did my part. I had to work.”
There is a Ohio State quarterback-Miami-McGahee connection. Former Heisman winner Troy Smith was a teammate with the Ravens.
“They said Troy Smith couldn’t play quarterback,” McGahee said. “I’ve known Troy for four years. He came out and won the Heisman Trophy. When he got his shot, he took advantage of it. If you have the ability to throw and read coverages, doesn’t matter how tall you are, as long as you have the heart.”
Posted on: June 19, 2011 8:15 pm
Edited on: June 20, 2011 7:53 am
BCS executive director Bill Hancock will meet with Department of Justice officials on June 30, CBSSports.com has learned.
Hancock said earlier this month that he would honor a Justice Department request to go to Washington D.C. for what was termed a "voluntary briefing". The date of the visit is now firmed up. Hancock plans to describe the BCS system to DOJ officials.
At the time of the request a DOJ spokesman said officials continue to look into the legality of the BCS in relation to anti-trust laws. NCAA president Mark Emmert referred an earlier letter from DOJ to the BCS which essentially controls college football's postseason.
"We take seriously any connection in Washington, and we’re certainly taking this seriously," Hancock told the Associated Press earlier this month. "But I view it as an opportunity, because we’re confident that the BCS is on strong legal ground."
Among the critics of the BCS are Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff who has said he will file an anti-trust suit against the BCS.
Posted on: June 14, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: June 14, 2011 3:40 pm
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- Terrelle Pryor and his new super agent Drew Rosenhaus hinted Tuesday that Pryor left Ohio State because he was about to be declared ineligible by the NCAA.
Pryor said he was entering the NFL supplemental draft in speaking publicly for the first time in six months. He read a short statement during a brief press conference called by Rosenhaus here at the Fontainebleau Hotel.
The former Buckeye quarterback apologized to his teammates and former coach Jim Tressel for "my conduct off the field." Pryor already had apologized once after being suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season. This obviously was a new apology with Pryor having left the team last week. With Pryor sitting next to him, Rosenhaus said: "He said, 'Drew, I didn't make this decision. I did not want to leave Ohio State. I wanted to finish at Ohio State, even knowing I would lose five games. I lost that opportunity through my own conduct.' "
Neither party elaborated. Seconds later the nine-minute presser concluded with no one taking questions. Rosenhaus spent most of the time saying that Pryor will be a "great" NFL quarterback.
"I am a firm believer after 25 years of experience that Terrelle Pryor will be a great, not a good quarterback, a great quarterback in the National Football League," Rosenhaus said, "that he is going to be a star, that this experience that he has gone through will galvanize him and make him a better person and stronger person."
Pryor reportedly made between $20,000-$40,000 selling gear and memorabilia while at Ohio State. That story broke six months after he was suspended for those five games for being one of six Buckeye players who made a combined $10,000selling gear and memorabilia to a Columbus tattoo parlor owner. The players were reinstated.
Tressel resigned in late May.
Rosenhaus spoke of a Tuesday morning workout with Chad Ochocinco in a local high school.
"In the middle of his workout [Ochocinco] came over to me and he says, "Are you serious, Drew. They're talking about him not being a quarterback? He is as good as any quarterback I've played with.' For anyone who questions his arm strength, give me a break. They couldn't hang onto his football."
Posted on: June 10, 2011 12:46 pm
Edited on: June 10, 2011 1:05 pm
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.
Posted on: June 9, 2011 8:29 pm
Edited on: June 12, 2011 3:01 pm
West Virginia is in negotiations to buy out embattled coach Bill Stewart, The Sporting News reported Thursday night, citing a source.
Coach-in-waiting/offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen would be elevated to head coach. Asked to confirm the report, Mountaineers AD Oliver Luck replied via text, "I can't comment."
The coaching staff had recently been investigated by Luck, who was trying to determine the source of what were termed "leaks" disparaging Holgorsen in recent newspapers accounts. The school said there were "blatant inaccuracies" in a report that Holgorsen had been involved in three to six alcohol-related incidents in the past few months.
A former Pittsburgh newspaper reporter said this week during a radio interview that Stewart urged him to "dig up dirt" on Holgorsen.
Had Stewart been fired after last season, the school would have owed him $2.5 million. Instead, the school hired Holgorsen from Oklahoma State, made him the coach-in-waiting and adjusted Stewart's contract. This would have been Stewart's final season as head coach. Holgorsen was to take over in 2012.
Stewart, 59, was the toast of Morgantown 3½ years ago when he beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. That night he was elevated to head coach following Rich Rodriguez's departure for Michigan. Stewart has won 28 games -- nine in each of the past three seasons, plus the Fiesta Bowl.
Posted on: June 9, 2011 12:27 pm
Edited on: June 9, 2011 4:27 pm
Terrelle Pryor's attorney on Thursday called the latest allegations against the former Ohio State quarterback by ESPN "bogus", threatened legal action, and called the NCAA system a form of "slavery."
Columbus, Ohio, attorney Larry James made the comments Thursday morning while appearing on SiriusXM's "Jason & The GM" show on satellite radio. Thomas described himself as a local figure who had worked with Ohio State in the past and knew AD Gene Smith, president Gordon Gee and former coach Jim Tressel.
"It was probably good for Terrelle to meet persons like myself, African-American lawyers, very successful -- quote, unquote," James said.
James said he did not know that meeting would lead to his representation of the troubled former star. He went on to say that "most" of Pryor's wrongdoing is limited to the selling of memorabilia "when he was a freshman, 18 or 19 years old at the time".
Ohio State's problems seemed to escalate Tuesday when ESPN.com reported that Pryor had made $20,000-$40,000 selling memorabilia with the help of a local freelance photographer, Dennis Talbott. Talbott has denied the allegations.
"I know Dennis Talbott," James said. "I don't mean to belittle Dennis Talbott but Dennis Talbott is not a deep-pockets player. This is out of his league. He does not have this kind of cash. He is not one of those dealers that one would say D has the ability to neg-buying and selling of memorabilia. Dennis was a part-time photographer who knew a lot of players. He was known around town. He is harmless. He definitely did not have that kind of wherewithal to do that kind of stuff and that story is just bogus."
The subsequent "Outside the Lines" report on ESPN, James said, "is close to being reckless and malice and over the line. This is something that Terrelle at the appropriate time may look at once he gets in the position to have the wherewithal to bring that lawsuit."
An unidentified former friend accused Pryor of taking the money in the ESPN reports.
James then went into detail describing Pryor's car situation that has come under scrutiny. With the NCAA curious about that situation, Pryor seemed to brashly drive to a team meeting Monday in a Nissan 350Z with temporary tags.
James explained that Pryor came to Columbus with a Hyundai Sonata purchased by his mother, Thomasina, when he was a senior in Jeanette, Pa. James said that after about a year, "that car practically dies," and Pryor's mother paid $11,000 for a Dodge Charger, again in Jeanette.
Over the next three years, the Charger was serviced "three or four" times requiring the use of a loaner car. At some point the Charger was traded in for the 350Z. The cars had the same approximate monthly payments, $298, according to James.
Six Ohio State players were cited by the NCAA in December for trading memorabilia for tattoos and other benefits late last year. Pryor was among those suspended for the first five games of 2011. However, Sports Illustrated last week quoted a source who witnessed nine other current players swap memorabilia or autographs for tattoos or money.
He then added of the nine new names published in SI, "They will be cleared. They will be cleared."
As for leaving the team when Pryor did, James said there is "division -- as you all know -- in the lockerroom among a lot folks."
"Terrelle looked at a situation where it was a hornet's test to try to continue to play football at Ohio State whether he was cleared or not."
He did not elaborate on that subject nor on the assertion that Pryor has had some "proposals" emailed from the Canadian Football League. James said he probably wouldn't negotiate any professional contract that Pryor would consider. There was no anger from Pryor, he said, after leaving the university.
"Irrespective of how harsh and idiotic we think some of the NCAA rules are, they are still on the books," James said. "They had slavery for all those years. Those rules are still on the books, and the courts uphold them."James then ranted about the NCAA and its enforcement process.
"You've got a captured system here in college football. It's mandated, dictated, the student-athletes have no rights. They have no relief. It's an archaic, draconian process by which you are basically financed for about 9 1/2 months of your school year and then you're to find the money for whatever else is left. You live in basically poverty throughout that period and you're making a million dollars for institutions."
James said he was not aware of any NCAA violations by Pryor, "over the last couple of years that we have uncovered."
James was questioned by hosts Jason Horowitz, a CBSSports.com contributor, and Steve Phillips, the Mets' former GM.