August 19, 2009
First Sam Keller. Then Ryan Hart and Ed O'Bannon. Then, earlier this week, Aubrey Pleasant and Shane Carter at Wisconsin. All have taken or threatened various forms of action from the player's perspective this summer alone. Now Oklahoma linebacker Ryan Balogun's attorneys would like to have a word with the authorities on their client's behalf:
Oklahoma football player Mike Balogun filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the NCAA and was granted a temporary restraining order against the organization. It's unclear, however, if that order will keep Balogun on the football field.
Last week, Balogun's eligibility came into question and the NCAA decertified him. The NCAA will allow Balogun to practice with the team until Wednesday, according to a press release OU issued last week. After Wednesday, Balogun is to be held out of practice while the NCAA tries to determine if he is eligible — an investigative process that apparently has been ongoing since early this year.
Whatever happened to the kids meekly accepting decrees on their fate with a scowl and a rock through somebody's windshield? When did lawyers get involved?
In Balogun's case, he's seeking not only a chance for playing time but also $10,000 in damages, according to the Tulsa World, apparently as compensation (!) for time missed in his competition with Ryan Reynolds for the Sooners' starting middle linebacker job, which would raise all kinds of red flags for the NCAA's dogged defense of amateurism if interpreted that way by a judge or jury.
Balogun is probably finished because of the same dense rule that cut Corey Surrency's Florida State career short earlier this year: Like Surrency, Balogun wasn't on the college track as a teenager, worked construction and for fun joined a ragtag semipro league on the side -- in Balogun's case, the North American Football League, which is "recognized as an amateur league and a developmental league for colleges and the pros." Later, like Surrency, he found his way to junior college and played well enough there to earn a scholarship to a major program, and caught on; Balogun started eight games last year in place of Reynolds, including the championship game against Florida. But because Balogun played in the NAFL past the age of 21, the NCAA rulebook considers his last year there beyond the "developmental" or "amateur" stage and correspondingly strips him of his last year of eligibility at Oklahoma -- even if it means cutting short his progress toward a degree or a real pro career.
Corey Surrency lost his appeal, and Balogun's case doesn't sound substantively different, so he probably will, too, absurd as that may be outside the inflexible mandates of the bureaucracy. But at least Mike isn't taking the business end of the "amateurism" stick lying down.
Also fighting back through the courts: New Mexico coach Mike Locksley, the target of a lawsuit accusing him of age discrimination and sexual harassment against a former employee he allegedly forced out because he wanted "younger-looking, young, fresh gals" around for recruiting purposes. Locksley fired back today with a countersuit accusing the plaintiff and her lawyer of "numerous false defamatory statements" and seeking monetary damages to be determined by a jury. Because nothing throws a crimp in a man's game like being seen as an insensitive creep.