STOCKTON, Calif. (CN) – Entangled in a far-reaching academic and recruiting scandal, the Division I University of Pacific’s men’s basketball team is on NCAA life support, and now its former head coach has sued it for $800,000 and punitive damages.
After an anonymous 2015 tip accused the team of facilitating academic fraud and attempting to skirt admission standards for its players, Pacific quickly suspended then-head coach Ron Verlin and three players, restricted recruiting and cut back on athletic scholarships.
As is often the case with colleges that tiptoe around academic and recruiting standards, Pacific inflicted pain on itself in hopes of tempering the NCAA response.
The former coach claims he was not ousted for academic violations but because of an interracial affair between an assistant coach and the athletic director’s daughter.
Verlin, who coached the Tigers for two years before the alleged violations, sued the university on March 2 in San Joaquin County Court, alleging for defamation and bad faith.
He claims Athletic Director Ted Leland orchestrated the resignation of an assistant coach after finding out his white daughter was sleeping with Verlin’s black assistant. Leland demanded that Verlin fire or force assistant coach Joe Ford to resign because Leland was “afraid [his daughter] was in love with him,” according to the lawsuit.
“Leland suggested it would be best to get Ford to resign ‘so it would stay out of the newspapers’ and that plaintiff would have to do that because ‘Leland was too close to it,” the complaint states.
Ford eventually resigned, telling the team that he was quitting to care for his parents. Verlin says the incensed athletic director’s daughter accused him of orchestrating the ruse and promised she was “going to get him.”
Shortly after Ford quit in May 2015, anonymous emails that accused Verlin of covering up basketball players’ sexual misconduct and academic violations flooded university officials’ inboxes. Pacific responded with the self-imposed sanctions and suspended Verlin indefinitely.
Verlin contends that Pacific, 40 miles south of Sacramento, intentionally sabotaged the team because it wanted a fresh start for the embattled program. He says the university ruined his reputation and leaked information about the NCAA investigation to the local press.
Verlin had two years remaining on his contract and claims the university owes him $800,000, and punitive damages.
Verlin’s attorney John Cammack said in an interview that Pacific scapegoated Verlin when faced with an NCAA investigation.
“The NCAA puts a sort of shroud of secrecy around its investigations,” Cammack said. “But the NCAA is coming to Stockton.”
Cammack would not speculate or comment on specifics of the NCAA investigation, but said Verlin’s lawsuit will be amended when the investigation is complete. He said the rough draft filing was necessary to comply with the statute of limitations for employment lawsuits.
The university said it could not comment on Verlin’s lawsuit “out of respect for the privacy and due process rights of the parties involved, and to protect the integrity of the legal process.”
The Tigers have appeared in nine NCAA tournaments, including a three-year stretch during 2004-2006. Verlin’s squads struggled on the court during his short stint as head coach, going a combined 31-42 overall and 10-26 in West Coast Conference play. He has been replaced by 13-year NBA veteran Damon Stoudamire.
In August 2016, former Pacific basketball player Alec Kobre sued the school for failing to inform him of the severity of the allegations surrounding the team. He claimed that Verlin encouraged him to take prohibited online courses offered by another university in order to meet Pacific’s transfer requirements.
Kobre was one of three players the university suspended, along with Verlin, after the academic fraud allegations became public.
He eventually dropped his lawsuit against Pacific in September 2016.Follow @@NickCahill_5
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