What's the one word every bureaucrat fears? -- "LAWSUIT".
Whatever the status of "sovereign immunity" on a UC campus, there are limits. Most statutes do not allow state institutions to shelter themselves from liability for gross negligence or recklessness.
And, many do not allow a shelter for suits seeking damages from the breach of a contract.
It may just be the trial lawyer in me, but when I read the SI article I thought "IF these stories about bullying and serious injuries from deliberate, unrestrained acts of violence are true, the injured players might sue UCLA."
My first thought was for James Keefe whose potential career may well have been ended by a deliberate act of a team mate.
Most of you are probably thinking that one cannot hold CBH or the university responsible for the acts of a crazy student. But, sometimes you can. When someone in charge knows of the risk and turns away from the responsibility to prevent harm, the institution may be held liable.
Is this a lock down case? No, not at all.
But, ask any risk management person whether he or she wants to defend the basketball coach and the athletic director in court, and I promise you the answer will be "NO."
IF these unsubstantiated stories in the article are true, and if the simple fact that both Strap On and Ben Bully have committed moral wrongs is not enough, I suggest that someone in the legal counsel's office take a look at the lack of control in the program and decide if it is worth the risk to keep the dirty duo employed. Sooner or later, someone is going to sue the university for his physical/emotional injuries.
And, that's just one way the university might be sued.
A creative lawyer might find some form of contract action to enforce the promises the coach made to the families during the recruiting period -- promises that the kids would be a part of a family and that the coach and his staff would treat them like their own. I know, some will say that recruiting promises are just words -- but in the hands of a creative lawyer, they may be more -- they may be a contract.
muircoach's eloquent post on bullying makes clear the "jury appeal" of a cause of action against the school for turning its back on a clear problem. What's most damning is that bullying, at all levels of education, has been a front page story for years. Usually we think of bullying as taking place in lunchrooms and nooks and crannies -- away from sight. How sympathetic do you think a jury will be to bullying taking place in the bright lights of a gym in front of a coach?
So, chancellor, you don't fear being sued? You have immunity. The claims are not strongly recognized in the law? You feel safe? Or, are you absolutely sure that the events in the story are fabrications -- so that you are still safe?
Guess what. You're not. Why? Because with lawsuits comes discovery. The right of an opposing party to force you to open up your drawer full of dirty secrets. Take a look at some of the posts on BN, yesterday. Questions for the coach about what he knew, when he knew it and what he did. Take a look about the same questions for the athletic director. And, guess what. You will have to answer them, too.
Don't like the picture I'm painting? There's an easy out. Do the right thing. Fire the athletic director. Fire the coach. Apologize to the players and families involved. And, hope that's enough to satisfy them.
And then, resign.
My alma mater deserves better than you've been able to provide.