ATLANTA (CN) – Four white football players claim Savannah State University, a historically black school, denied them admission and athletic scholarships because of racial prejudice.
The four plaintiffs claim that Robby Wells, former head football coach at Savannah State, recruited them by offering them full academic scholarships.
The school fired on Wells on Jan. 28, 9 days after a meeting in which the coach was told he “would never have the support of the citizens of Savannah because Coach Wells is white and his fiancée is black,” according to the federal complaint.
The four players claim that defendant Marilynn Stacey-Suggs, Savannah State’s interim athletic director, told Wells “that he had a choice of either resigning immediately or being terminated. Coach Wells was terminated/forced to resign from his employment at SSU because he is white and because he had recruited and offered scholarships to white football players, including the plaintiffs herein.”
After Wells was fired, the four say, the school withdrew its scholarship offers and withdrew its invitation to visit the campus in late January.
The school claimed the scholarship offers were withdrawn because the plaintiffs are not residents of Georgia, but the plaintiffs say the university offered scholarships to black students who do not live in Georgia.
And plaintiff Forrest Hill is a Georgia resident.
The plaintiffs say that Savannah State “employs recruitment policies and programs which are affirmatively designed to attract black students and faculty and which have contributed to the continued racial identifiability at SSU.”
The claim that the “defendants denied each of the plaintiffs a governmental benefit, i.e., an athletic scholarship to SSU, because of the plaintiffs’ race, white. Defendants’ discrimination on the basis of race was for the purpose and had the effect of perpetuating segregation in higher education.”
Defendants include the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, its Chancellor Erroll Davis, Savannah State President Earl Yarbrough, and Stacey-Suggs.
The plaintiffs – Forrest Hill, Jacob Farmer, Andrew Cannon and Rico Arellano – are represented by Matthew C. Billips with Billips and Benjamin.
They seek admission to Savannah State with full athletic scholarships and want the school enjoined from using race as a criterion in awarding scholarships, at least until the issues in this complaint are resolved.