A little-used basketball player has sued the University of Rhode Island, claiming it failed to deliver on a promise of a scholarship.
Plaintiff Tom Behrens, who played sparingly for URI during the 2002-03 season, sued the school, head coach Jim Baron and former athletic director Ron Petro for breach of contract.
“They told me they didn’t have a scholarship the first year, but they were going to give me one,” Behrens told the Providence Journal. “I went on their word, on what they told me.”
Besides Behrens’ word against that of athletic department officials, the case is expected to hinge on whether Behrens was a recruitable athlete.
NCAA rules provide that a prospect becomes a “recruited prospective student-athlete” if a school:
• Provides the prospect with an official visit, or
• Arranges an in-person, off-campus encounter with the prospect or the prospect’s parents or guardian, or
• Initiates or arranges a telephone contact with the prospect or the prospect’s relatives on more than one occasion for the purpose of recruitment, or
• Issues a National Letter of Intent or the institution’s written offer of athletically related financial aid to the prospect.
Behrens’ attorney, Thomas Mirza, has argued that the coaches came to watch Behrens work out in New York and the staff called Behrens on several occasions.
“They claim he wasn’t a recruited athlete, and we know he was,” Mirza told the Journal. “We have people who were there when the coaches saw him play. He also was invited to their campus for a visit by the coaches.”
URI spokesperson Linda Acciardo has said that the university doesn’t believe “the case has merit. We are aggressively defending it.”