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.”

Division II, Division III and NAIA title games set while FCS heads into semifinals

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Outside of a thrilling Army-Navy game and the Heisman ceremony, it was an empty Saturday at the highest level of college football.

But no so at the lower levels.

The divisional playoffs are cranked into high gear. Let’s take a brief look at where everything stands in each division.

FCS

Top-seeded and defending champion James Madison needed a last-second field goal to survive visiting Weber State, 31-28, on Friday night, while No. 5 seed South Dakota State routed New Hampshire, 55-14.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 seed and winner of five of the last six national titles North Dakota State walloped Wofford, 42-10 in Fargo. No. 6 seed Sam Houston State outlasted upstart Kennesaw State, 34-27, to send the Bearkats into their fifth semifinal game in the last seven years.

Semifinals: No. 5 South Dakota State at No. 1 James Madison — 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPNU; No. 6 Sam Houston State at No. 2 North Dakota State — 8 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN2.

Division II

No. 4 seed West Florida traveled north and upset top-seeded Indiana (Pa.), 27-17 on Saturday, to send the Argonauts into their first championship game. No. 2 seed Texas A&M-Commerce fended off the option attack of No. 3 Harding (Ark.), 31-17, putting the Lions in their first title game as well.

National championship: No. 2 Texas A&M-Commerce vs. No. 4 West Florida — 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan.

Division III

In a similar dynamic to FCS, the defending champion is on a collision course with the traditional champion. In the first semifinal, defending champion Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) blanked Brockport (N.Y.), 24-0. The Crusaders will make their third trip to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, looking to win their second title.

In the other semifinal, Mount Union (Ohio) overcame a 21-10 deficit to beat Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 43-40. The Purple Raiders will play in their 20th Stagg Bowl — all of them coming since 1993, and 19 of them since ’96 — with a shot at their 13th national championship. However, Mount Union has won just — “just” — two national championships since 2009.

National championship: Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) vs. Mount Union (Ohio) — 7 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN at Salem Stadium in Salem Va.

NAIA

The NAIA was off this weekend, taking a break in between last week’s semifinals and Saturday’s national championship. Defending champion Saint Francis (Ind.) out-gunned previously-undefeated Morningside (Iowa) 43-36 in the first semifinal, while Reinhardt (Ga.) held off undefeated Southern Oregon, 37-34 in double overtime.

National championship: Saint Francis (Ind.) vs. Reinhardt (Ga.) — 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN3 at Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Minnesota lands commitment from 6-foot-8, 395-pound offensive tackle

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P.J. Fleck is going to need a bigger boat.

Minnesota has landed a commitment from the largest recruit on record, as 6-foot-8, 395-pound offensive tackle Daniel Faalele has committed to the Gophers. Faalele made the announcement on his Twitter page on Saturday night.

A 3-star recruit, Faalele is rated as the No. 29 offensive tackle in the country, according to 247Sports. He listed 20 offers, including from the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and LSU.

As the story goes, Faalele did not find football; football found him. He was discovered by a recruiter from Hawaii working out at a gym in his native Melbourne, Australia. He attended a Michigan satellite camp in Australia and played this season — his first season in pads — at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

In making the trip from the Land Down Under to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Faalele will be joined by a pair of IMG Academy teammates in offensive lineman Curtis Dunlap, Jr., and quarterback Zack Annexstad, who also committed to Minnesota on Saturday.

Those pledges now give Minnesota the 26th best recruiting class in the country and the sixth best in the Big Ten — but the No. 1 class in the Big Ten West — in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Minnesota’s class may not be the best in the country, but it’s among the biggest — both in size (the Gophers have 25 pledges thus far) and stature.

Texas A&M suspends DT Zaycoven Henderson amid felony gun charges

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Texas A&M defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson was suspended amid multiple felony charges on Saturday.

As detailed by Ben Baby of the Dallas Morning News, witnesses say Henderson pointed a rifle at one person outside College Station’s Campus Village Apartments and threatened to kill two others and allegedly threw the gun out of a fleeing car as police arrived on the scene. The car was later tracked down by College Station officers, who discovered marijuana in the car.

He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, tampering with evidence and marijuana possession. The first charge is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in a prison. The second is a third-degree felony and the third is a misdemeanor.

He was booked into the Brazos County (Texas) jail at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Texas A&M has suspended Henderson indefinitely, which really only lasts one game as the senior from Longview, Texas, was set to close his Aggies career in the Belk Bowl against Wake Forest on Dec. 29 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Henderson made 35 tackles with five TFLs and 2.5 sacks in 12 starts this season. He was honored as a member of Texas A&M’s senior class at the annual team banquet earlier this weekend.

UCLA reportedly hires Paul Rhoads as defensive backs coach

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Chip Kelly has reportedly hired one of the most respected men in the business to his staff. According to a report from Sports Illustrated‘s Bruce Feldman, Paul Rhoads is on his way to Westwood to coach UCLA’s defensive backs.

Rhoads spent the past two seasons at Arkansas, the first as defensive backs coach and the second as defensive coordinator in addition to his duties with the secondary. He’s best known, of course, for his 7-year run as the head coach at Iowa State, where he took the Cyclones to three bowl games and created this viral moment before any of us knew what “going viral” went.

In addition to Arkansas, Rhoads also owns defensive experience at Auburn, Pittsburgh, Iowa State, Pacific, Ohio State and Utah State.

UCLA finished last season ranked 74th in pass efficiency defense, yielding a 57.1 percent completion rate for 7.3 yards per attempt with seven interceptions against 18 touchdowns.