A former Northwestern basketball player has filed a lawsuit declaring the NCAA's transfer rules an antitrust violation, saying that rules forcing transferring players to sit out a year before joining a new team at a new school to be non-competitive.
But on top of all that, the ex-Wildcat, Johnnie Vassar, makes numerous allegations of mistreatment by Northwestern staff in an attempt to "run him off" the team and free up a scholarship to use on another player.
Vassar signed on with Northwestern in spring of 2014, though his transfer was announced less than a year later. He played sparingly during the 2014-15 season, Chris Collins' second as head coach, appearing in only 18 games.
In the lawsuit, Vassar claims that Northwestern engaged in "deceitful behavior" with the intention of getting him to leave the program and give up his scholarship. This includes placing him in an internship during which he worked as a janitor, pressuring him to give up his spot on the team by signing a "Roster Deletion" form, falsifying timecards to show misconduct in an effort to take his scholarship away and even suggesting an offer of cash to leave the program.
Now, while the lawsuit is tying these two issues together — saying Vassar would have left Northwestern had the NCAA's transfer rules been different, with numerous Division-I programs willing to add him if he could play without sitting out a season — these do seem like two separate issues to the outside observer.
The fight to reform the NCAA and many of its unnecessarily restrictive rules is one thing, while allegations of ugly behavior by a specific coaching staff is another.
A few years ago, former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter made the Wildcats' football program the center of the universe in the former battle, attempting to form a union of Northwestern football players that would be able to collectively bargain with the university and the NCAA. And while the National Labor Relations Board did seem to make an earth-shaking judgment in deeming Northwestern's football players employees of the university with a right to form a union, when the time came for the next step in the process, the board refused jurisdiction, effectively putting an end to any change in the status quo.
But allegations of mistreatment including the attempted removal of a scholarship sounds all too familiar to what happened down the road in Champaign, where Illinois head football coach Tim Beckman was found to have mistreated his players — mostly through making them play injured and influencing the reporting of injuries by the medical staff — and was fired a week before the start of the 2015 season.
Vassar's allegations against Northwestern do not include jeopardizing his health, one of if not the main point in Beckman's situation at Illinois.