A former Crossland High School football player says he has told the National Collegiate Athletic Association that the University of Colorado violated NCAA rules in the handling of his scholarship.
Randy Bender, a defensive tackle who enrolled earlier this month at the University of Maryland, told The Washington Post that, as a result of his allegations, the NCAA investigated Colorado and charged the Big Eight Conference school's football program with a number of irregularities, including those in his own case.
The alleged violations occured under Bill Mallory, the head coach who recruited Bender and was fired after the 1978 season, or Chuck Fairbanks, the current coach.
Bender said he and his lawyer, James Goss of Colorado Springs, will file soon an $800,000 lawsuit charging Fairbanks, Mallory and Colorado Athletic Director Eddie Crowder with breach of contract and slander.
In a telephone interview, Crowder denied the university's football program was under NCAA investigation or had been charged with any violations.
David Berst, director of enforcement for the NCAA, said association policy put him in "a no-comment position. I can't confirm or deny" that Colorado is under investigation or has been charged.
According to Bender, the NCAA told him that the charge in his case was not as serious as those for other alleged violations. The NCAA investigation reportedly included Bender's case, the granting of too many scholarships and the manner in which a Colorado booster club paid the New England Patriots $250,000 to release Fairbanks from his contract there.
In his case, Bender said, the NCAA charged Colorado with giving him a scholarship when he was academically ineligible under the Big Eight rules.
Asked to reply to Bender's charges, which first surfaced in Colorado late last fall, Crowder replied:
"I'm not interested in defending myself at all. It's a dead issue. The university believes it was properly handled from our point of view."
Mallory, now the football coach at Northern Illinois, said he did nothing improper involving Bender. Fairbanks was not available for comment. His office said he was out recruiting.
Bob Minnix, an NCAA investigator, confirmed that Bender had "contacted this office because of problems he's had with the university," but would not comment further.
According to Bender, the NCAA completed its investigation late last summer and the university was notified of charges against it in September.
Under NCAA policy, the only public statement concerning an investigation is made after its infractions committee has completed its study and has decided that the school is guilty and that the penalty is at least a public censure.
Bender said he told the NCAA that he believed the school gave more than the 30 grants-in-aid (scholarships) annually allowed by NCAA rules.
Although Bender is planning to sue, he said, "I don't want a cent" from Crowder, Mallory or Fairbanks. He said his purpose is to try to reduce the number of irregular practices against athletes.
"They've brought a pro philosophy into college," Bender said. "It's a business the way it is. That's not the way it should be. I'm playing for the University of Colorado, not the Denver Broncos . . .
"I want to get it out in the open. If it means screwing a kid and his education, they'd do it.
"They put me in the position, I could pay off the bills or I couldn't get into another school. What could I do -- pump gas some place?
Bender now charges that Mallory offered him a deal by which Colorado would pay for his scholarship the second semester of his freshman year, if Bender paid for the first. He said Mallory told him he already had allocated his 30 scholalrships for the first semester.
Mallory, in a telephone interview, said "He (Bender) didn't quite understand the way I presented it to him . . . I told him if he came and proved himself worthy of a scholarship. I would give him full consideration. There was no situation where he was promised anything."
Bender also says Crowder signed the nomination for scholarship on Jan. 18, well after grades were available. The academic problem, Bender and school officials agree, was an English composition course that Bender had started. After he attended class for eight weeks, the English department said he was ineligible for the course because his written college board score was one percentile too low.
Bender complained to the English department and failed a test to waive the prerequisite for the course. At the time, according to his instructor, his highest grade in the course was a B-plus, his lowest a C-minus. He had six more papers due and hoped to get an A, which would have given him 12 credit hours and 2.0 grade-point average, making him eligible for football.
Bender passed the waiver test for the course during the second semester, has made up the six remaining papers and is awaiting his grade.
The question then is: If Mallory had not made a promise to Bender, why did Crowder sign the nomination for scholarship? Bender had gone home to Camp Springs, Md., for Christmas and returned with his father. According to Larry Schultz, an academic adviser, Bender and his father "took advantage of the situation" of the transition from Mallory to Fairbanks.
Schultz also said that grades were available to him on Jan. 8, or 10 days before Crowder signed the scholarship nomination. Schultz said there was a "breakdown" in the system that checks on eligibility.
Colorado also bases its claim to having handled the Bender case properly on a memo from Dr. David Boles, an academic counselor, to Crowder dated Sept. 25, 1979.
The memo states that Boles contacted Prentice Gautt, assistant commissioner of the Big Eight Conference, and was told that freshman had one year to pass 24 hours of credit. Gautt this week said he had made a mistake, and attributed it to his newness on the job.
Bender also charges that, after paying for his scholarship, the university rebilled him and included late charges and a finance charge. The school, Bender said, told tim he would be disenrolled if he did not pay the bill. As a result, Bender said he stopped going to class, although he remained in Boulder until the end of the semester.
Bender has a receipt from Colorado's finance office dated March 9, 1979, showing that the athletic scholarship paid $1,422 of his $1,441.95 bill. Bender says he subsequently paid the remaining $19.95. However, on March 1, he received a past-due billing for $1,506.37.
That summer, Bender talked to Maryland football Coach Jerry Claiborne about playing for the Terps. Claiborne told him that unless he was in financial good standing at Colorado, no other four-year school in the country would admit him even as a student. Bender was told the same thing at Wisconsin.
At this point, Bender said, he decided to tell his story to the NCAA.
According to the Sept. 25, 1979, Boles memo to Crowder, Bender was dismissed from Colorado following the 1979 spring semester because of poor grades. The memo suggested that Bender's scholarship be retroactively canceled, but said he would be billed only if the athletic department wished. The memo said Bender had asked Boles for a May 18 hearing with the financial aid office.
According to NCAA policy, a student-athlete has the right to a hearing if his scholarship is revoked or not renewed. Bender denies that he asked for a hearing at that time.
When he went home after the spring semester, Bender said, he called Schultz June 25 and was told he owed the university for tuition, books, fees and late charges. Bender returned to Boulder in September and he says, was told in the finance office that he did not owe the university any money.
On Oct. 5, 1979, Colorado's College of Arts and Sciences notified Bender "that the College Appeals Committee has approved deletion of the dismissal entry from your transcript."
At Maryland now, Bender is paying his own way, he said.