Pruett case back in headlines

by Chris Dickerson |
Aug. 21, 2008, 4:00am


HUNTINGTON – West Virginia University isn't the only state school that has had a high-profile lawsuit involving a football program.

The federal lawsuit involving Marshall's program and NCAA infractions has popped back into the spotlight.

Former coach Bob Pruett is denying allegations that he was involved in an academic scandal or asked players to be dishonest about a job program. And a former player who, in an affidavit, had made some of the allegations about Pruett has now taken it back.

David Ridpath, Marshall's former NCAA compliance officer, filed a federal lawsuit against Pruett and other former and current MU officials. Ridpath says he took the brunt of the blame when NCAA officials punished the university for impermissible employment of academic non-qualifiers at rates four times the prevailing wage, academic fraud and a lack of institutional control.

The NCAA sanctions resulted in Marshall being on four years probation. They also cost the school football and basketball scholarships.

Ridpath says he was used as a scapegoat, was demoted after the sanctions and fired two years later. His suit alleges fraud, breach of contract and violations of his free speech and due process rights. Ridpath seeks $1 million in damages.

Recent headlines involve affidavits from former strength and conditioning coach Mike Jenkins and former linebackers Sam Goines and Charlie Tynes.

Jenkins' affidavit said Pruett told the staff in a 1999 meeting that former defensive back Danny Derricott and others would be eligible for the fall 2000 season because they had been assured of perfect grades in a physical education class.

Ridpath also has accused Pruett and other coaches of covering up extra benefits for athletes who performed various jobs at $25 an hour at a Huntington business.

The NCAA sanctions required the school to sever ties for five years with Huntington businessman Marshall Reynolds, who has said he was wrongly blamed by the university in the saga.

Goines and Tynes both said in affidavits that Pruett had told them jobs would be available to them upon their arrival on campus. But as academic non-qualifiers, or "props," NCAA bylaws prohibit them from receiving work benefits arranged by the school during their first year in school.

Goines and Tynes said they were paid $25 per hour, but were forced to sign documents indicating they were paid $12.50 per hour.

"I was told that if I didn't sign, I could not play," Goines said in the affidavit. "I knew the $12.50 an hour figure was wrong, but signed anyway because I wanted to play."

On Wednesday, Tynes recanted.

"He never said to do that," Tynes said on West Virginia Public Broadcasting. "I never even went into his office to sign any papers dealing with this whole incident."

Tynes also said Pruett never promised jobs.

"I've never been to Coach Pruett's office period as far as anything dealing with a job," Tynes said. "He's never approached me about a job. I never asked him about a job."

The defendants filed a motion last month for summary judgment in the lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Chuck Chambers has not ruled on the motion and set a trial date for Oct. 21 in Huntington.

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