U. of Charleston Lawsuit – A Game Changer for Scholarship Athletes?

A lawsuit filed this week against the University of Charleston in West Virginia hasn’t gotten much national attention yet, but probably will soon. In the end, it could have a large impact on how U.S. colleges recruit and vet scholarship athletes.

The lawsuit revolves around the assault of a West Virginia man by three scholarship basketball players from the U. of Charleston – the players have been convicted and are currently serving sentences. The suit alleges that the university recruited the players even though it was aware that they had a violent criminal history outside the state of West Virginia.

In his lawsuit against the college the victim, Andrew Rude, claims that the three athletes:

“had known or upon reasonable inquiry known violent criminal pasts outside of the State of West Virginia and without regard to such clear character flaws and with regard to said defendant’s state admissions policies generally against admission of violent criminal offenders were received with open arms by defendant University of Charleston and allowed to reside rent-free at its Middle Hall, a dormitory located upon the campus of the University of Charleston, as scholarship athletes.”

If I were a college athletic director I’d be watching this case very closely. Of course this is an extreme example, and most college athletes don’t have violent criminal pasts, but unless the case gets thrown out entirely, other colleges are likely to take steps to avoid being held liable in similar cases.

Will checking criminal records suffice as a pre-scholarship check? Perhaps not. It’s not inconceivable that colleges, some of which already check online profiles before offering scholarships, could step up their efforts in doing digital background checks.

We’re not sure where this will end up, but for parents of potential scholarship athletes, making sure that your son or daughter has a clean internet and social media profile before getting recruited makes more sense than ever.


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