Former UCF kicker who lost scholarship for YouTube videos sues school

Dr. Saturday
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Former Central Florida kicker Donald De La Haye is suing the school.

Before embarking on its undefeated season, UCF had a bit of preseason drama with De La Haye. The kicker has a popular YouTube channel that documented life as a student-athlete. De La Haye made money from some of the videos, which caught the attention of the school’s compliance department.

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Over the course of two months, the saga ended with De La Haye ineligible, off the team and without a scholarship. Now, per the Orlando Sentinel, he has filed a federal lawsuit that argues his rights were violated.

The lawsuit claims UCF president John Hitt, athletics director Danny White and the school’s board of trustees violated his first amendment right to free speech and 14th amendment right to due process by removing his football scholarship after learning the NCAA deemed his YouTube videos a violation of its eligibility rules.

De La Haye’s attorney argues the NCAA’s decision not to grant the kicker a waiver allowing him to keep posting videos should have had no impact on UCF honoring his scholarship. The lawsuit filed Jan. 25 asks UCF to admit it violated De La Haye’s rights, reinstate his football scholarship, award De La Haye court costs and legal fees and grant any other relief the court deems proper.

De La Haye ran into eligibility issues because he makes money from the videos he posts. UCF said it submitted a waiver to the NCAA on De La Haye’s behalf. According to UCF, the NCAA granted the waiver and said De La Haye could maintain his eligibility while continuing to monetize from his videos as long as they “did not reference his status as a student-athlete or depict his football skill or ability.” De La Haye did not accept those conditions, and was thusly ruled ineligible.

The NCAA later detailed its position on the matter and said De La Haye was ultimately ruled ineligible by UCF, not the NCAA:

The saga all started in June when De La Haye posted a video after a compliance meeting titled “Quit College Sports or Quit YouTube?” In the video, De La Haye, who served as UCF’s kickoff specialist in 2015 and 2016, said he made money from advertisements that appear on the videos. He said in one video that he sent some of the money home to his family to help with bills.

“Basically, I’m not allowed to make any money off my YouTube videos,” he explained in the video. “I’m working hard, basically like a job, filming, editing, coming up with ideas, doing things of that sort. And I’m not allowed to make any money. If I do, bad things happen. I feel like they’re making me pick between my passion and what I love to do — make videos, entertain, be creative and my other passion, playing football. I’ve really got some decisions to make and not a lot of time to make those decisions.”

In another video posted a week later, De La Haye said he planned to keep making videos and profiting from them until he heard from the NCAA. UCF filed a waiver on De La Haye’s behalf in July and the NCAA responded quickly. In the end, De La Haye would not make any compromises, so he was declared ineligible.

Here’s the full statement UCF put out:

“In an effort to allow Donald De La Haye the opportunity to retain his eligibility and still be allowed to produce videos for YouTube, UCF Athletics recently submitted a waiver to the NCAA on his behalf. The waiver, which was granted, stated De La Haye could maintain his eligibility and continue to monetize videos that did not reference his status as a student-athlete or depict his football skill or ability.

“The waiver also allowed him to create videos that referenced his status as a student-athlete or depict his football skill or ability if they were posted to a non-monetized account. De La Haye chose not to accept the conditions of the waiver and has therefore been ruled ineligible to compete in NCAA-sanctioned competition. UCF Athletics wishes him the best in his future endeavors.”

De La Haye posted another video after losing his scholarship.

“I’m definitely torn apart inside,” he said. “I never really thought it would come down to this. They proposed me some rules and some conditions that they wanted me to follow and I refused to and I didn’t feel like they were fair. I’m not going to get into details of all of that, I don’t think I’m allowed to. But I just didn’t think it was fair what they wanted me to do so I didn’t do it.”

You can view De La Haye’s lawsuit via the Orlando Sentinel here.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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