Texas Tech hires trainer accused of, sued for mistreating player

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In December of 2009, Texas Tech fired head coach Mike Leach for allegedly mistreating a player who also happened to be the son of a well-known television personality on a sports network you may have heard of.

In January of 2010, Tech hired Tommy Tuberville to replace the coach who allegedly mistreated a player.

Seven months after the former — from which a lawsuit is still winding its way through the legal system — and six months after the latter, Tuberville has filled a position in his football program. And, in a bizarre twist, the position is being filled by a former member of Tuberville’s Auburn program accused of mistreating a player while with the Tigers.

According to a press release issued by Texas Tech Wednesday afternoon, the school has hired Arnold Gamber to be the Red Raiders’ head athletic trainer.

“I worked with Arnold for 10 years at Auburn,” Tuberville said in a statement, “and he and I have a great working relationship but most importantly he has great relationships with our student-athletes and puts their safety and well being above all.”

We can think of at least one student-athlete who disagrees with Tuberville’s assessment of Gamber.

Offensive lineman Chaz Ramsey suffered a back injury in December of 2007 while lifting weights.  Four months later, the Freshman All-American had surgery performed on his back by a surgeon recommended by Auburn.  Shortly thereafter, Ramsey’s issues with Gamber began, as told by the Birmingham News.

The rehab program that followed was the source of what quickly became a bitter dispute between the Ramseys and Auburn’s training staff. 

Ramsey said he returned to Auburn in late May, about six weeks after his surgery, with his back feeling great. But an aggressive treatment program initiated by Auburn’s training staff not only conflicted with the specific plan laid out by the surgeon, but actually made things worse, Ramsey said. Two months after the surgery, his back was back to “square one.” 

The conflict only escalated. Ramsey accused head trainer Arnold Gamber of calling him “less than a man” and suggesting that he use pain medicine for the rest of his Auburn career. The Ramseys say that Auburn team physician Dr. Michael Goodlett was horrified that the rehab directives were not being followed, and told Ramsey to report directly to him, not the training staff.

In July of 2009, Ramsey filed a lawsuit against both Gamber and former Auburn offensive line coach Hugh Nall seeking “compensatory and/or punitive damages” for “pain and anguish” and “the denial of a very probable career in the NFL.”  The suit further claimed that Gamber and Nall “negligently caused or negligently allowed Plaintiff to be exposed to increased injury.”

(Nall was dropped from the suit in June of this year.  The lawsuit against Gamber remains on track for a February trial date, Ramsey’s attorney Steve Heninger told CFT Thursday afternoon.)

In their press release officially announcing Leach’s firing, the school wrote the following: “The coach’s termination was precipitated by his treatment of a player after the player was diagnosed with a concussion. The player was put at risk for additional injury.”

And now the very same school has hired someone accused of and sued for exposing a player to increased injury?

It goes without saying that this development is of great interest to the attorney representing Leach in his suit against the school.  Ted Liggett, who has represented the former Tech coach for 11 years, blasted Tech’s hiring of Gamber in light of the reasons given by the school for terminating Leach.

“One can taste the irony of this recent hire,” Liggett, a graduate of Texas Tech and the university’s School of Law, wrote to CFT via email. “Will Craig James demand the new trainer be dismissed based simply on the pending allegations against him? If Texas Tech is so dedicated to protecting their student-athletes from abusive coaches/trainers, etc., why make this move? 

“Tech has proven they don’t prescribe to the theory of innocent until proven guilty by admitting they fired Mike before their investigation was completed. Why depart from precedent by retaining a trainer that stands accused of injuring a student-athlete? One would think that competent administrators would not make this move.”

(Several emails have been sent to assistant athletic director Blayne Beal seeking comment on both Gamber’s hiring and Liggett’s comments; as of the posting of this article, we have not received any on-the-record comment from anyone at the school.)

If Leach’s lawsuit for breach of contract goes before a jury — which likely will not occur until November at the absolute earliest — Liggett has told CFT that Gamber’s hiring is something that could potentially be used to bolster his client’s claims.

Regardless of what the ramifications are for the judicial part of the equation, the hiring of Gamber after the firing of Leach does not paint a positive picture of the university at all, especially in light of their Dec. 30 proclamation that “our number one priority [is] to protect the welfare of our students.”

Illinois adds longtime NFL assistant; DC Hardy Nickerson given beefed-up title

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There was some movement on the coaching staff front for Lovie Smith Friday.

Illinois announced earlier today that Gill Byrd has been hired by Smith as the Fighting Illini’s safeties coach.  Byrd will also hold the title of passing-game coordinator.

“I’m very pleased to have Gill Byrd join the Illini coaching staff,” said Smith in a statement. “We’ve spent several seasons together in the NFL and I envision Gill bringing a great combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to our program. He will be a terrific influence on the young men he coaches, and, as good a coach as he is, he is probably an even better person.”

Byrd, who played his college football at San Jose State, has spent the past 19 seasons at the NFL level, coaching defensive backs during stops with the St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, most recently, with the Buffalo Bills last season.  This will mark Byrd’s first-ever job at any level of college football.

In addition to the hiring of Byrd, the football program also confirmed that Hardy Nickerson has been given the additional title of assistant head coach.  Nickerson has served as the Illini’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for each of the past two seasons.

Texas to give Todd Orlando raise to $1.7 million per year

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Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the raises.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the University of Texas System Board of Regents are set to approve several athletics-related contracts next week, headlined by athletic director Chris Del Conte’s multi-million dollar six-year deal and a hefty raise for Longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

Orlando, who joined Tom Herman when he came over from Houston prior to last season, was already one of 15 assistants who were making over $1 million in 2017. He was courted by several programs this offseason however and the cost to retain him on the 40 Acres didn’t come cheap as his amended contract is set to pay him a reported $1.7 million as part of a new four-year deal.

Also on tap for the board? The Statesman notes that new offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Herb Hand has a three-year contract awaiting approval worth nearly $640,000 annually.

While all those new contracts do add up for the Longhorns, it’s not like the burnt orange can’t afford it all as one of a handful of programs who topped $200 million in revenue last year.

Texas A&M athletic director: ‘Resource issues in ACC vs. SEC’

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CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd recently stopped in College Station to do a deep dive on one of college football’s biggest storylinesJimbo Fisher’s $75 million move from Florida State to Texas A&M.

While the money — some $90 million for the Aggies when all is said and done — is one of the more eye-catching parts of the story that are broken down, the comments from some at the school probably won’t go unnoticed by those in Fisher’s former conference.

“I’m not going to put words in Jimbo’s mouth, but there are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC,” Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward told CBS Sports, answering part of the question as to why the national title-winning head coach made the move from one of the sport’s blue-bloods to one of the oft-labeled “sleeping giants.”

We’re guessing those in ACC territory will not take kindly to those comments and note that some schools in the league have no problem raising cash, such as Clemson when it comes to their new football facility that has everything from mini-golf to sleep specialists. They also would probably point out that the conference has just as many national titles in the past five years as the SEC does too.

Still, when you look at the larger picture, there’s little question that the SEC is ahead of the ACC when it comes to revenues as a whole and the slow pace of facilities upgrades in Tallahassee was one of the many public grumbles that Fisher made known about before leaving FSU.

Something says all those ACC-SEC football games in 2018 will see Woodward’s comments brought up again — especially when Clemson heads to College Station to play Texas A&M in Week 2.

UCF’s Shaquem Griffin wins inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award

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UCF has won another trophy for last season and this is one they can very proudly display in the school trophy case.

That’s because recent Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin was named the winner of the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award during a ceremony in the Dallas area on Thursday night. Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph were also finalists for the new award.

Griffin was one of the best players in college football for UCF despite the fact that his left hand was amputated when he was younger because of a congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome. A tenacious pass rusher, he was the AAC’s defensive player of the year in 2016 and was recently named the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl as his team capped off a perfect season.

The award honors “exemplary leadership” on and off the field from a Division I college football player and was presented by Witten’s foundation. The former Tennessee star and All-Pro tight end with the Dallas Cowboys started the award last year and serves somewhat as the college version of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.