Nov 4, 2023; Pullman, Washington, USA; Washington State Cougars wide receiver Lincoln Victor (5) is stopped alert short gain by Stanford Cardinal linebacker Tristan Sinclair (8) in the second half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. Stanford won 10-7. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Washington court stays Pac-12 ruling

The Washington Supreme Court sided with the departing members of the Pac-12 on Tuesday, granting an emergency stay that, at least for now, thwarts an attempt by the remaining members — Oregon State and Washington State — to control the conference governing board.

At the end of this academic year, Oregon State and Washington State will be the only schools left in the conference after the other 10 jump to the Big Ten, Big 12 or Atlantic Coast Conference.

Earlier, a lower court granted an injunction that gave the two schools control of the conference and, most importantly, its income. With the stay issued Tuesday, all 12 teams still have a seat at the table.

Washington took the lead in the case on behalf of the 10 departing universities and took the case to the state Supreme Court. The group issued a statement praising the ruling.

“We are pleased that the Washington Supreme Court has put on hold the preliminary injunction that would have given OSU and WSU sole control of the Pac-12 Conference,” the joint statement said. “The decision effectively ensures that all 12 current members will have an equal voice in determining how the revenue our schools earned this year is distributed and utilized while the Court considers our arguments.

“This funding is vital to our ability to operate our athletics programs and to provide mental and physical health services, academic support, and other support programs for our student-athletes. The combined earnings of 12 schools during the 2023-2024 academic year should not be unilaterally governed by just two institutions while we all remain members of the Conference.”

Oregon State and Washington State intend to seek a review of the decision, ESPN reported. All parties were given until Dec. 12 to file motions.

“We are disappointed in the Washington Supreme Court Commissioner’s decision to temporarily allow the departing schools to have veto power over Pac-12 board matters while they appeal the superior court’s well-reasoned decision to grant Oregon State’s and Washington State’s request to govern as the Pac-12’s sole remaining members,” spokespersons for the two schools said in a joint statement.

“We did not create or seek these circumstances, but Oregon State and Washington State remain committed to taking aggressive action to protect our universities, ensure accountability and transparency, safeguard student-athletes and the Pac-12 Conference, and preserve our options moving forward.”

Controlling the conference funds would be beneficial to Oregon State and Washington State as they seek to hold on to, and rebuild, the historic conference.

–Field Level Media

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh's college football program is being investigated for sign-stealing.

Jim Harbaugh accepts suspension; Big Ten ends Michigan investigation

Officials at Michigan said the university is dropping its appeal of football coach Jim Harbaugh’s three-game suspension from the Big Ten, ending its litigation against the conference.

In exchange, the Big Ten agreed to close its investigation into allegations of sign-stealing.

The university was seeking an injunction that would have allowed Harbaugh to be on the sideline Saturday against Maryland, and the two sides were due in court on Friday.

“This morning, the University, Coach Harbaugh, and the Big Ten resolved their pending litigation. The Conference agreed to close its investigation, and the University and Coach Harbaugh agreed to accept the three-game suspension,” read Michigan’s statement, which added Harbaugh “decided to accept this sanction to return the focus to our student-athletes and their performance on the field.”

The Big Ten suspended Harbaugh for three games last Friday amid an investigation into allegations of sign-stealing and in-person scouting by at least one former member of his staff. At the time, the Big Ten said there was no evidence linking Harbaugh to wrongdoing but that he was suspended as the face of the program.

“The Conference has confirmed that it is not aware of any information suggesting Coach Harbaugh’s involvement in the allegations,” Michigan’s statement read. “The University continues to cooperate fully with the NCAA’s investigation.”

In its own statement, the Big Ten said Michigan’s action is “indicative of the high standards and values that the Conference and the University seek to uphold.

“The University of Michigan is a valued member of the Big Ten Conference and the Conference will continue to work cooperatively with the University and the NCAA during this process,” the statement said.

The Big Ten suspension was only for games, meaning Harbaugh can coach in practice throughout the week. He was not present when No. 3 Michigan defeated then-No. 10 Penn State on the road.

The Wolverines travel to Maryland this weekend and then face No. 2 Ohio State at home, with a berth in the Big Ten title game — and potentially the College Football Playoff — on the line.

Offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore, who led the Wolverines against Penn State, will be the interim head coach against Maryland. A win would give Michigan football its 1,000th victory in school history.

–Field Level Media

Oct 16, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on the ESPN Monday Night Football Countdown set at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Defamation suit against Cowboys owner Jerry Jones dismissed

A defamation lawsuit against Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was dismissed by a federal judge in Texas on Tuesday, nearly eight months after it was initially filed.

Alexandra Davis, who said she is Jones’ daughter, filed the lawsuit back in March against the Dallas owner and two of his associates — lawyer Don Jack and communications consultant Jim Wilkinson.

The suit claimed that Jones, Jack and Wilkinson “initiated a deliberate plan” to paint her as “an ‘extortionist’ and a ‘shakedown artist.’” But on Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Schroeder III threw it out, stating in a 36-page order that some of the statements Davis found to be defamatory either weren’t or were in fact true.

Schroeder, presiding in the Eastern District of Texas at Texarkana, also considered Davis a “limited public figure,” meaning that in order for her to win the case, the alleged defamatory statements would have had to of been made with actual malice.

The statements in question were published in two ESPN articles about a lawsuit that Davis had filed in March 2022. In that initial suit, Davis sought recognition as Jones’ daughter, and she also claimed that Jones paid her $375,000 in addition to setting up a pair of trust funds to hide the familial relationship between the two.

In the defamation case that was just dismissed, Davis believed Jones and his associates were attacking her character publicly “based knowingly on false statements and accusations.”

“This case was never about money — it was about a young woman searching for her dad,” Davis’ attorney Andrew Bergman previously said in a written statement. “Their response was to try to destroy her.”

Despite Tuesday’s dismissal of the most recent lawsuit, Schroeder is giving Davis and her lawyers the chance to submit another complaint that proves Jones, Jack and Wilkinson acted with actual malice when making their comments that were published by ESPN.

Bergman has 21 days to submit a revised complaint after only part of the plaintiff’s lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice.

“We are amending our pleading and we are pleased that the case is moving forward,” Bergman said.

Wilkinson told ESPN in 2022 that Bergman told one of Jones’ lawyers that for the case to be settled, it would cost Jones “Zeke or Dak money,” referring to then-Cowboys stars Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott, but Bergman denies any allegations of asking for money in the case.

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2022; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA;  Northwestern Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald walks the sidelines during the second quarter against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Pat Fitzgerald sues Northwestern, alleges wrongful termination

Ousted Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald, fired amid a hazing investigation, is seeking more than $130 million in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The suit, filed in Cook County, Ill., names the university and its president as defendants. Fitzgerald contends the school wrongfully fired him for cause, defamed him and intentionally caused emotional distress.

Fitzgerald, a Northwestern alum, wants to be paid the $68 million remaining on his contract, which was due to expire before the 2031 season. He also wants millions for future earnings, contending he won’t be able to find a similar job.

By firing Fitzgerald for cause, the university contends his contract is null and void.

“If there was ever an athletic coach at Northwestern University that should not have been terminated, it was Coach Fitzgerald,” said his attorney, Dan Webb. He contended in a news conference Thursday that the school had ruined Fitzgerald’s reputation without evidence.

Northwestern president Michael Schill said in July that an independent investigation found hazing allegations were “largely supported by evidence.”

The firing came after a player came forward to the student newspaper, the Daily Northwestern, and revealed that some of the alleged hazing included coerced sexual acts. Fitzgerald is also accused of presiding over a “culture of enabling racism.”

In a statement, per USA Today, the school said Fitzgerald “had the responsibility to know that hazing was occurring and to stop it” but didn’t.

“The safety of our students remains our highest priority, and we deeply regret that any student-athletes experienced hazing,” the school said in part of the statement. “We remain confident that the University acted appropriately in terminating Fitzgerald and we will vigorously defend our position in court.”

Schill suspended and later fired Fitzgerald following the investigations.

At least 13 players have sued the school, describing acts that allegedly took place, including “naked” events. Fitzgerald has been named as a defendant in six of the lawsuits.

Fitzgerald, 48, coached Northwestern from 2006-22, going 110-101 during his tenure. The Wildcats were 5-5 in bowl games.

–Field Level Media

Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker watches a play against Central Michigan from the sideline during the second half at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023.

Mel Tucker plans wrongful termination lawsuit against Michigan State

Mel Tucker’s attorney informed Michigan State on Thursday that Tucker will file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the university.

Michigan State officially fired Tucker for cause on Wednesday following a months-long investigation into sexual harassment allegations. The university said in a letter that his actions with a female contractor left it “subject to public disrespect and ridicule.”

Tucker’s attorney, Jennifer Belveal, responded Thursday by requesting that the school prepare records pertaining to all members of the athletic department and other university employees, “in anticipation of litigation.”

Michigan State’s investigation alleged that Tucker, 51, sexually harassed Brenda Tracy, a sexual assault survivor and activist, during what she has characterized as unwanted phone sex in April 2022.

While Field Level Media’s policy is not to name alleged victims of sexual harassment or assault, Tracy agreed to be identified in a USA Today interview and provided hundreds of pages of documentation.

According to Tucker’s attorneys, Tucker and Tracy had “an entirely mutual, private event between two adults living at opposite ends of the country” and Tucker has said the investigation contained “an ulterior motive designed to terminate my contract.”

Wednesday’s termination letter, signed by athletic director Alan Haller, said Tucker’s 25-page response to the allegations did “not provide any information that refutes or undermines the multiple grounds for termination for cause set forth” in the notice to terminate. Instead, Haller said the response “provides a litany of excuses for your inappropriate behavior while expressly admitting to the problematic conduct outlined” in the notice.

Belveal called Tucker’s firing an “illegal termination” in Thursday’s letter. She requested Michigan State retain all phone and computer records as well as physical files from athletic department employees, the general counsel’s office and all board of trustees members.

Tucker was one of the highest-paid coaches in college football, signing a 10-year, $95 million contract before the 2022 season. The contract would have been fully guaranteed had the school fired Tucker for performance.

However, it contains a clause that allows Michigan State to fire him, without payment, if he engages in “conduct which, in the University’s reasonable judgment, would tend to bring public disrespect, contempt or ridicule on the University,” according to USA Today.

Harlon Bennett has served as the Spartans’ interim head coach since Tucker was initially suspended without pay Sept. 10. The team has lost both games under Bennett so far.

–Field Level Media

Michael Oher has penned his second book, "When Your Back's Against the Wall." Oher, a former NFL lineman, is hoping to inspire those who face tough odds it is possible to pick yourself up when life knock's you down to achieve your dreams.

Report: ‘Blind Side’ subject Michael Oher claims adoption was ruse

The feel-good story behind the 2009 blockbuster film “The Blind Side” was all a lie, retired NFL offensive lineman Michael Oher alleges in a lawsuit filed Monday in Shelby County, Tenn.

Oher was the subject of the movie, about a well-to-do white family that adopted a Black teenager and gave him the stable home he craved. ESPN, which reviewed the 14-page court filing, said he never was legally adopted by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, and, in fact, was tricked into agreeing to making them his conservators.

As a result, he said, the Tuohys made business deals that put money into bank accounts of the couple and their two now-adult birth children and shut out Oher.

Oher went to live with the family when he was in high school, and in 2004, after he turned 18, unwittingly signed the conservatorship document, according to the court paperwork.

“The lie of Michael’s adoption is one upon which Co-Conservators Leigh Anne Tuohy and Sean Tuohy have enriched themselves at the expense of their Ward, the undersigned Michael Oher,” the legal filing reads, according to the ESPN report. “Michael Oher discovered this lie to his chagrin and embarrassment in February of 2023, when he learned that the Conservatorship to which he consented on the basis that doing so would make him a member of the Tuohy family, in fact provided him no familial relationship with the Tuohys.”

The family didn’t immediately respond to ESPN’s request for comment.

Sandra Bullock won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy in “The Blind Side,” which also was nominated for Best Picture. According to Box Office Mojo, the movie brought in $309 million worldwide, and per ESPN, the court filing says Oher received no compensation for a film “that would not have existed without him.”

Oher, now 37, played at Ole Miss and was an All-American. The Ravens selected him in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft, and he played 110 games (all starts) over eight seasons with Baltimore, the Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers.

In his petition, Oher is seeking to end the Tuohys’ conservatorship and to bar them from using his name and likeness. He also wants an accounting of what the Tuohys have earned using his name and then his share of the profits and unspecified damages.

–Field Level Media

Sep 18, 2021; Durham, North Carolina, USA; A Northwestern Wildcats helmet sits on an equipment chest during the fourth quarter at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Howard-USA TODAY Sports

Ex-Northwestern lineman alleges hazing, racism in lawsuit

A former Northwestern offensive lineman is filing a lawsuit against the school, alleging he was hazed and mocked for his Mexican heritage, ESPN reported Wednesday.

Ramon Diaz, who was with the Wildcats from 2005-08, said he also experienced the sexualized acts previously alleged by other former players.

Diaz’s lawsuit claims that former offensive line coaches Bret Ingalls and James Patton made “racist, embarrassing, degrading, and harassing remarks.”

Diaz, who battled injuries throughout his career and did not appear in any games, told ESPN that the derogatory comments about his race “haven’t left me since I finished playing.” At a news conference Wednesday in Chicago, he said he attempted suicide in 2007 as a result of the “bigotry, racism and emotional abuse I suffered.”

Diaz’s lawsuit also alleges that assistant coach Matt MacPherson, now the defensive backs coach and associate head coach, and former tight ends coach Adam Cushing either witnessed the hazing or should have been aware of the mistreatment.

“There is a culture that has been condoned by the athletic department and university that has allowed these coaches to behave the way they do,” Diaz told ESPN. “I believe focus should be shifted toward the athletic department specifically, but Northwestern at large. The atmosphere will not change systematically if that does not happen.”

Patton is now the offensive line coach at Miami (Ohio). Ingalls is an offensive analyst at Michigan. Cushing coaches the offensive line at Duke.

Patton declined to comment on the lawsuit. Ingalls and Cushing did not respond to ESPN’s requests for comments.

Northwestern said in a statement to ESPN that it is reviewing the allegations against MacPherson.

“We will review any specific allegation involving current coaches or players and will take the appropriate disciplinary actions based on the facts,” the school said. “We are committed to do whatever is necessary to address hazing-related issues and ensure that our athletic program remains one that our entire community can be proud of and one that is fully aligned with and reflects our values.”

Diaz is the ninth former Wildcats player to sue the school since it fired longtime head coach Pat Fitzgerald on July 10.

Northwestern announced Tuesday that it has hired former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to conduct an independent review of its athletics programs and culture.

–Field Level Media

Sep 18, 2021; Durham, North Carolina, USA; A Northwestern Wildcats helmet sits on an equipment chest during the fourth quarter at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Howard-USA TODAY Sports

Lawsuit: Northwestern coaches were subjects of alleged hazing

A lawsuit filed Monday against Northwestern over alleged acts of hazing in the football program revealed new details, including a claim that members of the coaching staff knew what was happening because they were subjects of the actions themselves.

The lawsuit is the fourth against the school but the first one with a named plaintiff — Lloyd Yates, a former quarterback and wide receiver for the Wildcats.

The suit was filed in Cook County (Ill.) Circuit Court by civil rights attorney Ben Crump and Steven Lavin, who said last week they have talked to dozens of former players about their experiences.

USA Today, which reviewed the Yates lawsuit, reported that assistant coaches were among those who were “ran” by players. According to the lawsuit, “running” in the Northwestern program took place when players held down another person, without consent, and committed sexualized acts.

“During a training session during the Fall of 2015 or Spring of 2016, a strength and conditioning coach was ‘ran’ by members of the football team, on the field, in front of the entire team and coaching staff,” Yates’ lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit does not identify the coach who was the subject of the alleged act.

Northwestern officials did not respond immediately to USA Today.

Northwestern fired longtime coach Pat Fitzgerald on July 10 after an investigation into allegations, though Fitzgerald, through his attorneys, has denied any knowledge of hazing.

Yates, a member of the Wildcats from 2015-17, alleges in the lawsuit that he was “ran” by 12 to 15 players at preseason camp at Camp Kenosha in the summer before his first season, according to USA Today. He said the alleged act took place in a dorm common area and resulted in him feeling “embarrassed, ashamed, dehumanized, powerless, dirty and anxious,” per the lawsuit.

He also contended in the lawsuit that team members were pressured to take part in “naked” drills and other events.

The lawsuit also includes new allegations of racial discrimination committed by the coaching staff.

Yates is suing on the grounds of willful and wanton misconduct and violating a state gender violence statute, per USA Today. He is seeking more than $50,000 for each count.

The investigation into alleged hazing at Northwestern has expanded past the football program, and on Monday, a former women’s volleyball player sued the school. ESPN reported that her lawsuit contends Northwestern and the athletic department didn’t adequately respond to alleged hazing in 2021.

The lawsuit names coach Shane Davis, the two most recent campus presidents and the three most recent athletic directors among the defendants, per ESPN.

–Field Level Media

Oct 29, 2022; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Northwestern Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald looks on during the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern to have 2 external reviews after Pat Fitzgerald firing

Northwestern will launch two separate, external reviews into its athletic department in the aftermath of investigations that led the university to fire football coach Pat Fitzgerald and baseball coach Jim Foster, it announced Tuesday.

Northwestern president Michael Schill said in a letter to the university community that the reviews were a matter of accountability, and the results of both will be made public.

One review will focus on the university’s “ability to detect threats to the welfare of student-athletes,” while the other will center on the culture of the athletic department as a whole.

“I write to you today to give you my commitment that I will continue to do whatever is necessary to address this situation and ensure that our athletic program remains one you can be proud of and one that is fully aligned with and reflects our values,” Schill wrote in part. “Equally important, I give you my commitment that we will redouble our efforts to safeguard the welfare of each and every student-athlete at Northwestern.”

At least one lawsuit has been filed against the university, Schill, Fitzgerald and other Northwestern trustees alleging they were negligent in letting a culture of hazing fester in the football program.

A growing group of 12 former players have retained attorney Ben Crump to pursue legal action. According to ESPN, news conferences with Crump and other attorneys working the case are scheduled for Wednesday morning in Chicago.

Fitzgerald’s attorney, Dan Webb, released a statement Tuesday evening addressing the ex-coach being named in a John Doe complaint.

“Instead of making actual detailed factual allegations about Coach Fitzgerald’s conduct, the complaint makes a variety of broad-based and sweeping allegations ‘upon information and belief,’ without citing any specific facts or evidence,” Webb wrote in part.

“Nothing in the John Doe complaint comes close to contradicting the conclusions of the months-long investigation led by Attorney Maggie Hickey — that Coach Fitzgerald had no knowledge whatsoever of any form of hazing within the Northwestern Football Program.”

Fitzgerald was fired for cause July 10 after initially being suspended for two weeks without pay. Fitzgerald is also mulling legal action against the school for breach of contract.

In announcing Fitzgerald’s termination, Schill said players were exposed to “forced participation, nudity and sexualized acts of a degrading nature, in clear violation of Northwestern policies and values.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 16, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) looks on before a  wild card game against the Dallas Cowboys at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Tom Brady lost $30M in FTX collapse

Tom Brady lost millions in the collapse of cryptocurrency company FTX, for which he served as an “ambassador,’ The New York Times reported Friday.

Under an agreement the retired NFL quarterback made with FTX in 2021, he received $30 million in now-worthless stock for his work pitching the company in television ads and at its conference. In step with him at the time was his then-wife, Gisele Bundchen, who received $18 million in stock, per the report.

FTX filed for bankruptcy last November. Its former CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried, is facing federal fraud-related charges.

And Brady, who won seven Super Bowl titles in his career, also faces legal peril on top of the financial losses. Both Brady and Bundchen, who officially divorced last October, are being sued by FTX investors who want repayment from celebrity endorsers. Basketball Hall of Fame member Shaquille O’Neal also has been sued in the FTX case, as have Larry David of “Seinfeld” fame, tennis player Naomi Osaka and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors.

“None of these defendants performed any due diligence prior to marketing these FTX products to the public,” according to the lawsuit, obtained by the Times. It was filed in federal court in Florida.

Before the collapse of FTX, it was valued at $32 billion, including $48 million in shares held by Brady and Bundchen, per the Times. Now, it has no value.

Brady, 45, ranked No. 50 on Forbes’ 2023 list of the World’s Highest-Paid Athletes with earnings of $45.2 million in football salary and endorsements.

–Field Level Media