Scandal at Marshall Festers as Former Compliance Director and Coach Square Off

Sep 26, 2008

When Marshall University was penalized for NCAA infractions seven years ago, few could have expected that the case would still be in the news today.
But it is, partly because Compliance Director David Ridpath sued Marshall University, head football coach Bob Pruett, and others, claiming he was used as a scapegoat in the 2001 proceedings.
Ridpath filed suit after he was reassigned from his compliance job to director of judicial affairs three months before the NCAA penalties were handed down. Ridpath claimed that the reassignment irreparably damaged his career in athletics.
During the litigation, the defendants moved for summary judgment, claiming that Ridpath “argues that his inability to gain employment as a compliance director was because of the characterization of his transfer as a ‘corrective action’. His mediocre job performance and lack of professionalism have played, however, a significant role in his difficulty in finding employment. He demonstrated numerous unprofessional acts.”
Examples of these acts, highlighted recently in the media, include an alleged argument between Ridpath and another assistant athletic director, who he admitted to calling various derogatory names. Ridpath also admitted to cursing at Pruett when the head coach tried to calm him down after this argument. There are also angry, insult-ridden emails to a subordinate in the compliance department regarding his testimony in the impending case.
Pruett has also attracted some embarrassing media attention. Much of the case hinges upon the extent of his direct involvement with the infractions at Marshall.
Marshall was put on probation for four years in 2001 and charged with impermissible employment of academic non-qualifiers, academic fraud, and lack of institutional control. Scholarships were reduced in football and basketball. The NCAA Manual states that a notice of allegations shall be limited to possible violations occurring “not four years before the notice of inquiry is forwarded,” which would mean that to address this matter, the NCAA would have to reopen the case after its statue of limitations has expired.
Damaging testimony from former coaches and players paints a picture of Pruett as someone who not only knowingly committed violations, but intentionally kept them from his compliance director.
Mike Jenkins, a former Marshall flexibility coach, stated in court documents: “I have knowledge that the academic fraud concerning football athletes receiving special academic assistance in violation of NCAA rules, specifically certain athletes received copies of a final exam in advance of the test, was initiated and known by Coach Pruett and others on the staff. The study guide was to be put on my desk for athletes to come pick up off my desk… I was present when Coach Pruett assured the staff that certain football athletes would be eligible for the fall 2000 season because ‘they were guaranteed to get A’s in McAllister’s class’.” Bruce McAllister was a volunteer assistant strength coach for the football team and taught PE 201.
Former Marshall players Charles Tynes and Sam Goines allege in their affidavits that during the time they did not qualify for a scholarship under Proposition 48, and that they were assigned “janitorial” jobs at Chapman Printing, owned by prominent booster Marshall Reynolds, and were paid $200 a day, or $25 an hour.
Goines’ states, “We were instructed by the coaching staff that we should not talk about the job(s) or tell anyone about the job and keep it in the football family. During my senior year, I was suspended for four games for working at Chapman Printing during my Prop 48 year . . . in order to restore my eligibility I was told to sign a statement indicating I had made $12.50 per hour. The statements were signed at a meeting in Pruett’s office and under Pruett’s direction.”
In a 90-page deposition, Reynolds asserts that the “props” were paid $200 for two eight-hour days, or $12.50 an hour. He disputes the NCAA’s contention that the prevailing wage for the low-skilled jobs at his MacCorkle Machine Shop was $4.50 to $6 an hour. “One, MacCorkle is a union plant,” Reynolds said. “So it is spelled out what you pay everybody. And we agreed with the union rep that they would let us use these part-time kids, and they agreed on the day’s pay, the daily rate, which is $100 a day.”
But in a surprising twist, on August 20, former player Charles Tynes recanted his statement, saying, “I never even went into his [Pruett’s] office to sign any papers dealing with this incident . . . I’ve never been to Coach Pruett’s office, period, as far as anything dealing with a job. . . . He never approached me about a job. I never asked him about a job.”
As an affidavit is a signed statement of facts, how could Tynes recant? “I may not have understood everything that I did sign off on,” Tynes said. “I thought it was all about helping the guy [Ridpath] out, get his reputation back. . . . It’s being flipped around, basically to make Coach Pruett seem like he was running a dirty program. I don’t believe he was.”
The case goes before Judge Robert Chambers in trial on December 2. The first settlement meeting will be October 14, with a pretrial conference November 3 if no settlement is reached. Pruett has been quoted saying that he looks forward to seeing the truth come to light in court.
For his part, Ridpath told Sports Litigation Alert, “ I strongly believe this will be resolved this year, either in my favor or theirs via a jury decision. A settlement may happen—but I am not optimistic about that.” After seven years, Ridpath says, “The waiting is the hardest part.”


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