The former recruiting coordinator for the University of Kentucky football team, Claude Bassett, has sued the UK Athletic Association, the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference, claiming they violated antitrust laws by banning him from coaching at the collegiate level.
“The NCAA has intentionally and improperly interfered with coach Bassett’s prospective contractual relations with its member schools as a football coach or recruiting coordinator by forbidding its members to hire him,” alleged Bassett and his attorney, Cincinnati-based Robert Furnier.
The plaintiff also charged the defendants with committing fraud and civil conspiracy against him by duping him into foregoing his due process rights. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that UK athletic director Larry Ivy lied to him to get his resignation, promising not to pursue an investigation into his conduct if he resigned.
“As a UKAA employee, coach Bassett was entitled to the due-process protections of any athletic department employee subject to disciplinary action,” according to the lawsuit. “After the athletic director struck a deal with coach Bassett to obtain his resignation, the coach lost these protections.
“… Coach Bassett never would have resigned if he had known that the university would initiate an NCAA inquiry contrary to the AD’s earlier assurances to the coach. Thus, UK’s investigation was tainted from its inception.”
The plaintiff maintained that he should have been interviewed earlier than six weeks into the investigation and should have been informed of the specific allegations against him before the interview. He also claimed the university and SEC refused to give him a tape of his interview, preventing him from adequately defending himself.
Bassett resignation was part of a larger recruiting scandal that left the university on three years of probation. Bassett was banned from coaching NCAA member schools for eight years. Among the things Bassett was accused of was paying players. But what initiated his downfall was an accusation made by UK offensive coordinator Tony Franklin that he improperly cashed a $500 check written to the university.
In a statement, UK general counsel Barbara Jones said: “Mr. Bassett’s lawsuit against the University of Kentucky Athletics Association is completely unfounded. Mr. Bassett resigned his employment with the University of Kentucky upon confrontation by UK officials regarding his misappropriation of a check written to the university. His lawsuit attempts to justify his own wrongdoing. The university will vigorously defend its actions.”
The NCAA responded by claiming the “claims are completely without merit and will eventually be dismissed by the courts.”