One player claimed he performed for two seasons on the basketball team using seven differeent assumed names becaue he would have been academically ineligible otherwise. You could call him Andy Potter, or you could call him Nathan Tyler or you could even call him....
Another player claimed he enrolled for a summer quarter that included 12 credits of physical education courses. He never attended any of the classes, he said, yet received passing grades in scripts.
Allegations of such abuses are not rare. However, at California State-Los Angeles (not to be confused with UCLA) seven former members of the school's basketball team have taken their charges not to the NCAA, but to a court of law.
Two weeks ago, the seven black players filed suit in Los Angeles Municipal Court, asking for more than $14 million in damages from the 29,000-student university in East Los Angeles.
They claim they were fraudulently misled into believing they were receiving athletic scholarships, when they were actually attending school on loans procured by the school -- loans ranging from $3,000 to $6,000 they are now being asked to repay.
The students and their attorneys from the Western Center on Law and Poverty, a legal aid firm, also contend they were deceived into believing they would receive "a meaningful education" at the university.
But, the suit contends, their coaches pushed them into superficial, piece-of-cake course to keep them eligible. None of the seven ever graduated.
Some Cal State athletes "went to school three, four years and have trouble reading the freeway signs," Randy Echols, one of the seven players filing suit, said in an interview last week.
"When it came time to register for classes, we already had eight to 12 hours of garbage on our schedule cards from the coaches, stuff like archery, back-packing theory of movement. If you wanted to take a substantial course, you were discouraged, and sometimes flat out told no."
Ron Stratton, assistant director of investigations for the NCAA, said his organization almost certainly will begin looking into the charges. He also indicated the lawsuit "is probably the first of its kind, that I know about."
"The alleged violations, from what you've told me, are not that unusual, but the charges of fraudulent misrepresentation of the scholarships is very strange. The fact that they're claiming they've been cheated on their education also makes it kind of interesting. It's definitely a precedent."
Named in the suit were John Greenlee, university president; John Hermon, athletic director; and three coaches, Bob Miller, former basketball coack; Norris Scott, current coach, and Hal Dowling, a former assistant coach now teaching at San Jose State.
Robert Lerner, director of public affairs for the university, said all the defendants have been told specifically not to comment on the suit.
"I'd lke to help you out," said Miller, now a physical educationn instructor at the school, "but we have been required by the state not to say anything."
The athletes and their principal attorney, Michele Washington, have no qualms about discussing the case.
"This talk about dumb jocks taking basket-weaving courses is really a sad joke," Washington said in an interview last week. "Nobody's ever really taken it seriously. But what you have here is the classic exploitation of the black athlete."
Echols, now a 25-year-old field worker with underprivileged children for the Salvation Army, concurred with his attorney.
A 1971 graduate of L.A.'s Verbum Dei High in 1971, he transferrd to Cal-State after two years at the University of Arizona and played two seasons until he was thrown off the team halfway through his senior year.
"I was considered a troublemaker,' Echols said in an interview, "because I was constantly questioning what was going on. I have no malice for these people, I don't want anyone to go to jail, but I do think we were the victims of a misguided program, and we are trying to rectify that."
And how did that program work? Michael Ingram, one of the seven players, described how his so-called scholarship was explained by Miller.
"In late September of 1973, Coach Miller visited my parents and me... in order to explain the arrangements he had made to pay for the cost of my education... and my living expenses," Ingram said in a written statement filed with the suit.
"He specifically told my parents and me that we would not be obligated to repay any of the money we would receive under the agreements he wanted us to sign.
"Miller had with him all the forms which had to be filled out in order to permit me to receive financial aid while I was a student at Cal-State. He completed certain parts of these forms himself, including the portion for parents' income figures.
"... In each of the subsequent years I would obtain similar financial-aid applications from either Coach Miller or Bob Taylor in the financial aid office. The form blanks were always filled out in advance with figures before they were given to me to sign.
"At each time of signing, I was always informed that the papers were part of my scholarship agreement. I was never informed by any of the coaches or by Bob Taylor that any of the papers I signed would obligate me personally for the repayment of any money."
Echols added that before the start of each quarter at the school, Miller ususally called a meeting of the basketball team.
"He'd hand out these envelopes with the word 'scholarship' written on them," Echols said. "Most of the information was already filled in. All you had to do was sign.
"We were all told this was material that had to be completed for us to get our scholarships. No one questioned it because we had no reason to question it. These were our coaches, people we were supposed to trust. No one had any idea we were signing loan papers."
"My financial affairs were completely controlled by Coach Miller," Thomas Moore said in a sworn statement. "The coach told me where to live while attending Cal-State... Also, Coach Miller would frequently cash the checks I received from the althletic department.
"As soon as I would pick the check up, Coach Miller would take it saying that I 'owed him money for fines or loans.' The fines were imposed whenever anyone was late to practice. It was fear of these fines that put pressure on the players to sign financial aid papers, as we were always approached just before practice.
"The loans I was forced to 'repay' were for amounts of money which Coach Miller was always offering to me and other team members -- small amounts of five and 10 dollars.
"After the coach claimed the check he cashed it at his own bank and returned the cash to me, less the amount 'owed.'"
One of those who claims to have had a proxy test-taker was basketball player Michael Ingram. In his statment filed with the suit he said:
"Coach Miller told me that both my grades and test scores were not high enough for me to enroll.
"Coach Miller then arranged for Alfonso Bell to take the entrance exam for me the next time it was offered. He told Bell to be sure not to score too high so that the test score would match my high school grades."
Ingram, in his statement, described the method used to provide him with a car.
"Miller made a telephone call to Newco Car leasing in Beverly Hills and spoke with a salesman there named Sam Lebring. Miller told Lebring that he had a basketball player who was thinking about getting a car and he gave Lebring my name.
"After Miller's conversation with Lebring was over, Miller told me that that I was to call Lebring the next day. He gave me $300 up front to put down on the car.
"On the following day, I called Lebring and ordered a new 1974 burgundy and white Firebird. After I received the car, Coach Miller would give me $150 each month to make the monthly payments on time until I was able to receive my disbursement check."
Ingram also claimed that he received passing grades for courses he never attended in the summer quarter of 1974.
"Coach Miller directed me to enroll in 12 units worth of summer school classes in physical education," he said in the statement. "I did enroll in these classes, but I never attended any of them. At tne end of the summer quarter, I received passing grades in all of the classes in which I enrolled."
The university, meanwhile, had 30 days from Dec. 28 to respond to the suit. And attorney Washington said she thought it would be at least nine months to a year before the issue is resolved.
"We believe these young men are just typical of what's happened to a lot of young black athletes all over the country," she said. "What happened to them is terribly wrong. We will do everything we can to prevent it from happening again."