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.”