(Editor’s Note: The following article appeared in both Sports Litigation Alert and Legal Issues in Collegiate Athletics, both of which can be subscribed to at www.hackneypublications.com)
By Justin B. Kozubal, MSA, of Capital University & Michael S. Carroll, PhD, of Troy University
On or around December 31, 2018, eleven Black football players from Mesa Community College (MCC) in Mesa, Arizona filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona against numerous Defendants, including Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD), Maricopa County Community College District Board (MCCD Board), board president, school chancellor, and individual board members. Plaintiffs are seeking equitable relief by MCCCD for the decision to eliminate all football programs throughout the MCCCD school system, claiming the decision violates Plaintiffs’ rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Plaintiffs in the Action for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief belong to a protected class (African American) and accepted scholarships to play football at MCCD colleges. The complaint states that the purpose of accepting the scholarships within MCCCD was to obtain a scholarship at a four-year university and details all thirteen Plaintiffs’ academic and athletic backgrounds. Plaintiffs further detail the adverse effects caused by the elimination of football, including but not limited to, (a) financial opportunity; (b) inability to pursue a four-year-degree due to out-of-state tuition costs; (c) inability to pursue other schools due to financial aid deadlines; (d) inability to pursue other schools due to offers being withdrawn (e) inability to further education (f)inability to attract division one universities due to a lack of opportunity to display athletic abilities; (g) inability to complete prerequisite work because scholarships have been revoked (h) inability to develop character and growth as a person due to lack of coaching (i) inability to pursue other schools due to a lack of opportunity to improve football skills (j) and inability to mature with proper mentorship, structure, and camaraderie.
Arguments & Decisions
Defendants allege that the decision to eliminate football program is due to operating costs and cite results to a commissioned 2012 task force to examine the school system’s departments. The Maricopa Priorities Athletic Task Force (MPATF) was formed in 2012 in order to see how students might be better served. After a number of years and evaluation, the MPATF recommended that the football programs across MCCCD colleges be eliminated. In October of 2017, the Chancellor of the MCCCD system, Dr. Maria Harper-Marinick, issued an email stating that the football programs in MCCCD colleges would not be eliminated, but just four months later, this changed. In February 2018, a press release was issued stating that football as a sponsored sport would be terminated at the conclusion of the 2018 season, citing ongoing financial constraints and decreased state support, forcing a reprioritization of funds. Additionally, Defendants cited high insurance claims and premiums, poor academic success by football players, loan defaults by football players, and the projected cost of $20 million dollars to maintain the football program in the future as reasons for eliminating the program.
Plaintiffs argue that … (To read the complete article visit Hackney Publications to subscribe to SLA or LICA.)