Thursday, October 30, 2008

Legal Cases: Brenda Monk and FSU; Colorado Student-Athlete

Brenda Monk, the tutor at the center of the Florida State cheating scandal, plans to sue FSU for $600,000, alleging defamation:

Brenda Monk, one of the former Florida State employees alleged to be involved in an academic misconduct scandal, plans to sue the school for defamation, the St. Petersburg Times has learned.

A notice of that intent was sent to the school via registered mail on Wednesday, said her attorney, Brant Hargrove. That's a requirement under Florida law before one can file an action against a state entity.

In the letter supplied to the Times, Hargrove cited two main points:

• "Florida State (the University) failed to adequately investigate facts surrounding an allegation by the University that Dr. Monk failed to perform her duties as a Learning Specialist for Florida State University."

• "The University, after failing to properly investigate said facts, then released for public consumption, derogatory and defamatory statements alleging impropriety by Dr. Monk."

Monk, 59, a Ph.D. who was hired by FSU in January 2001 then resigned in the wake of the scandal in July 2007, will be seeking $600,000 from her loss of employment income and retirement benefits. She is now a principal at the school at the Lake City Correctional Facility.

RyAnne Ridge, a former member of the women's basketball teams at Tulsa and Colorado, has filed a breach of contract suit over the failure of Colorado to provide her a scholarship:

RyAnne Ridge, a member of the CU team for parts of two seasons, filed a breach-of-contract suit against CU and the school’s Board of Regents earlier this month in Denver District Court.

The suit alleges she was verbally promised a scholarship by women’s coach Kathy McConnell-Miller and never received it after transferring from the University of Tulsa. It also claims the coach made contact with Ridge while she was still playing at Tulsa, a recruiting violation CU self-reported to the NCAA in June.

CU is still on NCAA probation from an investigation into the athletic department’s undercharging of walk-on athletes for certain types of meals. That probation lasts until next summer, but Patrick O’Rourke, the university’s chief litigation counsel, said Wednesday the women’s basketball “secondary violation” likely won’t affect the probation.

“We’ve just been served with the legal paperwork, and what I’ve reviewed demonstrates that Ms. Ridge had an expectation of having an opportunity to be walk-on player (instead of a scholarship player),” O’Rourke said. “But we will investigate the claims, and I look forward to hearing about the conversations that Ms. Ridge claims to have occurred.” . . .

A student-athlete suing over a scholarship is rare, according to Wake Forest University law professor Timothy Davis. Davis is an expert in the field and said he hasn’t heard of a decision similar to Ridge’s suit involving a transfer student-athlete.

“There isn’t much in precedence,” Davis said Wednesday. “But if the evidence is there, a court might be willing to entertain it.”

I am no lawyer, but the old joke about a verbal contract being as good as the paper it is written on comes to mind. As things stand, however, it is important to note that scholarships, year-to-year, are de facto granted at the will of the coach. This remains one of the principle flaws in the NCAA scholarship structure, and it means that the futures of student-athletes like Ms. Ridge are at the mercy of their coaches.

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