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.”

Texas A&M AD Ross Bjork puts Arkansas series at AT&T Stadium on the chopping block

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Week 5 means it’s time for Arkansas and Texas A&M’s trek to the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex for their annual conference game at AT&T Stadium but the days of the old SWC-turned-SEC West rivals meeting in the area might be on the way out.

While a number of fans on both sides have clamored for a return to campus sites for the yearly division meeting, it seems they have picked up a key ally in new athletic director Ross Bjork, who gave some pretty strong indications to the Dallas Morning News that the series is unlikely to continue after the contract runs out after 2024.

“Here’s how I should view it: we should have every SEC home game on our campus from here on out,” Bjork said. “How we do that after the contract is over is still yet to be determined. I think we should have four SEC home games every single year on our campus.”

Bjork said he has spoken about the series with his counterpart at Arkansas, who has even more of a juggling act to do given that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (a former player and prominent booster) enjoys hosting his old team at his palace of a stadium. Still, the Razorbacks have to be interested in a return to campus in at least some form given that they also play a number of games in Little Rock and have just two SEC games in Fayetteville some years — including in 2019.

We’ll see what ultimately becomes of the Arkansas-Texas A&M dance in Dallas but the comments out of College Station right now certainly put it on a path to ending in the near future.

Former Syracuse football player gives program $25 million donation

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There’s giving back as a former player and then there’s giving back to your old program.

The latter was certainly the case for Syracuse this weekend as the school announced a record $25 million gift from former offensive guard John Lally during their game against Western Michigan at the Carrier Dome.

“For Syracuse University Athletics to become even more competitive in both the ACC and on the national stage, the program needs to have first-class facilities, operations and support,” Lally said in a statement. “Laura and I are committed to Syracuse University Athletics, and in particular positioning the university to attract, recruit and retain high-performing student-athletes who succeed on and off the field, inside and outside the classroom and in their communities.”

Lally made his money as the owner and president of PCB Piezotronics Inc., a company he founded after playing offensive guard for the Orange from 1977 to 1981.

While the extra large gift didn’t have any specifics attached to it, the size certainly points to at least some minor facilities upgrades. According to Syracuse.com, Lally already donated nearly $1 million for renovations to the Carrier Dome prior to writing an even bigger check on Saturday in the middle of the Orange’s victory over the Broncos.

It’s not uncommon but for players, especially those in the NFL, to pony up for a new locker room or weight room at their old program but the size of Lally’s generosity is certainly notable in a very welcome gift for Syracuse.

Ole Miss officials not happy with Pac-12 refs after ending against Cal

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There were some absolute bonkers endings in the Pac-12 this weekend, from the #Pac12AfterDark special that was UCLA’s comeback against Washington State, to Colorado stunning Arizona State to California remaining the league’s only undefeated team thanks to a goal line stand against Ole Miss.

While the Golden Bears escaped Oxford with a 28-20 win, the victory was not without controversy — something Rebels officials want answers on.

For those who didn’t catch the action, Ole Miss was down eight in the final minute. After a big pass play got the team into the red zone, the Rebels faced 3rd-and-goal from the three yard line with just 17 seconds left. QB John Rhys Plumlee rolled out and quickly threw it to Elijah Moore right at the goal line.

Officials, who were from the Pac-12, ruled Moore short of the end zone however and marked him down inside the one yard line. The home team had no timeouts left and scrambled to get a QB sneak in, which was stuffed by Bears linebacker Evan Weaver.

Ole Miss interim athletic director Keith Carter took to Twitter to express his frustration over Moore’s catch not being reviewed (which would have stopped the clock) as to whether he broke the plane or not, not holding back at all at the Pac-12 officials involved.

The conference has already acknowledged an error their crew made in Arizona State’s victory over Michigan State last week, where Pac-12 refs missed a call that would have allowed the Spartans to get a first down on a missed field goal. Something could be released on Sunday afternoon but that’s unlikely to appease the Rebels, who now sit at 2-2 on the year and face the always brutal SEC slate over the coming months.

All of which Pac-12 fans probably shrug their shoulders over and say get in line Ole Miss given the mistakes the league’s officials make on a weekly basis out West.

Cal shoots up to No. 15 in latest AP Poll, UCF sinks to No. 22 after loss to Pitt

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AP Poll voters shook up their ballots quite a bit after a fairly wild Week 4 of action in college football.

Among the biggest risers are No. 15 Cal, which celebrated a controversial victory at Ole Miss on Saturday to become the Pac-12’s only unbeaten and now the conference’s second-highest ranked squad after No. 13 Oregon. The folks out West had a number of movers and shakers when all was said and done, with previously ranked Arizona State and Washington State dropping out after losses and No. 21 USC returning to the top 25 after beating a Utah squad now ranked No. 19 on Friday night.

One of the big drops came at the hands of new No. 22 UCF, which had been sitting in the top 15 prior to losing at Pitt on Saturday in a wild one from Heinz Field. That left new No. 16 Boise State as the highest ranked Group of Five team. Michigan State also returned to the rankings at No. 25 while Kansas State is now ranked in both the AP and Coaches Polls after an idle week. No. 23 Texas A&M hung on to a number in front of their name after a second loss to a top 10 team while Michigan dropped nine spot and sat at No. 20 after being destroyed by Wisconsin.

In the top 10, Notre Dame stuck around after their close loss to Georgia, the Badgers moved to No. 8 and Oklahoma and Ohio State flipped spots in the 5/6 range after the Sooners were off and the Buckeyes scored 76 unanswered against Miami (OH).

Here’s the full AP Poll heading into Week 5:

  1. Clemson
  2. Alabama
  3. Georgia
  4. LSU
  5. Ohio State
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Auburn
  8. Wisconsin
  9. Florida
  10. Notre Dame
  11. Texas
  12. Penn State
  13. Oregon
  14. Iowa
  15. California
  16. Boise State
  17. Washington
  18. Virginia
  19. Utah
  20. Michigan
  21. USC
  22. UCF
  23. Texas A&M
  24. Kansas State
  25. Michigan State