A Rapist Recruited This Season as a “Practice Dummy” Sues YSU - Ma’lik Richmond Wants Game Time!
Ma’lik Richmond, the Youngstown State University football player who made national news in early August for being allowed to practice with the football team, has filed a civil rights lawsuit demanding that YSU put him on the active player roster as early as this weekend, when the Penguins host the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils on Saturday afternoon at YSU’s home field, dubbed “The Ice Castle”.
And about 8 p.m. Thursday night, a federal judge ruled that Richmond will have to be allowed to dress up in a YSU uniform and stand on the field during the Blue Devils game, although it is not known whether he will see any game time. The judge ruled that since Richmond pays tuition and is a student in good standing, keeping him from having such status is a violation of his civil rights and as well, is in direct violation of a contract the university holds with its students. This is just a temporary injunction, however, and further litigation may be in order with further civil lawsuits.
[Nearly two weeks ago I wrote and posted another article on the YSU/Ma’lik Richmond football scandal here on Little Green footballs. This update is even more of a zinger than the news I already posted, which made its rounds on a lot of national magazines and large newspapers, including the New York Daily News.]
As a football standout for the Steubenville Big Red football team, Richmond was convicted in 2012 of raping a 16-year-old girl from Weirton, w.va., right across the Ohio River from Steubenville, at a party in the Jefferson County, Ohio, city. Another Big Red football player and fellow Steubenville High School student, Trent Mays (both boys were then 16), were named as the sexual assailants in this shocking and scabrous nightmare. The devil-may-care attitude of Richmond and Mays, along with the laughing, jeering, and cheering heard in the background of the cell phone recordings created a firestorm of fury. It didn’t take long for it to become a national scandal. Attendees at the party posted the sexual assault of the girl on Facebook, Twitter, along with text messages and cell phone recordings of this sordid, horrific ordeal.
A national outcry and concern about rape and rape culture exploded from this sex party black mass, putting this small city of only 18,000 on the map. A showcased documentary clip on ABC’s 20/20 titled “Steubenville: After the Party’s Over,” which firestormed into even more horror and malaise, and at the center of it was Richmond and Mays, a white boy. Most shocking of all to most was the realization that teens that had just grown out of childhood could be responsible for such barbaric and sadistic cruelty and criminal behavior.
A 29-page complaint filed yesterday (Wednesday, Sept. 13) in U.S. District Court in Youngstown alleges that the university singled out Ma’lik Richmond, denied him due process, and violated a contract he had with the university by violating promises made to him.
U.S. District Court Judge Benita Pearson set a Thursday afternoon hearing for both sides to argue Richmond’s request for a temporary restraining order preventing YSU keeping him off the active roster. Richmond’s lawyers also say he is being kept from playing in games “for reasons other than legitimate coaching decisions.”
The lawsuit’s main thrust is that Richmond does not want monetary recompense; no, he wants to be a real gridiron presence in games this fall. Richmond’s attorneys also say that by keeping Richmond as a practice player only and not allowing him on the team, it is preventing the now 20-year-old from one year of NCAA Division I eligibility. Richmond is also trapped inside a zero-sum situation where he can either dress for practice with the team and not even be allowed a presence on the field during actual games, or quit the team and forfeit everything, according to today’s 21 WFMJ 6 p.m. broadcast.
21 WFMJ goes on to say that Richmond has suffered “significant material damages, including but not limited to, diminished earning capacities, expenses including attorneys’ fees, and other compensatory damages, in an amount to be determined by a jury and the court.” The lawsuit also refers to Richmond’s first contact with Head Coach Pelini, and during this meeting, it is stated in the lawsuit that Pelini said he would support Richmond “no matter what” and Pelini told the young man that he felt “he had served his time for his mistake in high school.”
The YSU Board of Trustees’ decision to hire Tressel on May 9, 2014, as university president continues to draw controversy, since accredited state universities have a prerequisite of a university president to hold a Ph.D. and a Master’s degree is the highest degree Tressel holds.
Tressel replaced Randy Dunn, who only stayed at YSU for seven months before accepting an offer to become President of Southern Illinois University. Tressel was also in the running for Dunn’s job, after Cynthia Anderson retired from the medium-sized state institution in the heart of the heartland’s ‘Rust Belt’.
Tressel remains a very popular and loved public figure in Youngstown, primarily because of his success as YSU’s and Ohio State University’s head football coach. Tressel built a powerhouse Pengins’ team from 1986 to 2000 and brought home four national championship NCAA Division I-AA trophies.
Meantime, Bo Pelini, born and raised in Youngstown, and a graduate of Cardinal Mooney High School, currently enjoys the status as a loved public figure in this distressed steel city, which lost two-thirds of its population since the early 1980’s after its gargantuan integrated steel mills closed. In only his second year on the job, Pelini’s Penguins lost 28-14 to James Madison in early January’s 2017 NCAA Division I (formerly the NCAA Division I-AA) Football Championship game. Pelini wowed avid football fans of this sports-crazy city, having so little time to recruit and build a championship team. Great things are expected of him.
But scandal? Well, Tressel and Pelini both have had quite a few of these in their time. “Tattoogate” and other brow raisers can be accredited to Tressel and most of what Pelini has suffered is backlash from his antics as a truly vociferous and emotive “alpha dog” attack coach.
Let’s not get into all the particulars here, though. Just suffice it to say that this duo of pigskin kings may have just kicked up their worst yet in the active recruiting of Ma’Lik Richmond. Sad to say, both Tressel and Pelini could probably coach Donald Trump on a thing or two regarding scandals. And maybe it’s just time for the two of them to decide to punt on first down, at least in the case of a 20-year-old enticed to “dress up” with the dangling carrot in front of Ma’Lik’s nose for a promise of his gridiron glory days yet to come. Next year, Mah’lik, and if not, maybe the year after next year, or the year after that.
Meanwhile, Richmond’s lawsuit says the university’s actions are biased, improper, and damaging, causing him to suffer substantial harm due to “the loss of one precious and irreplaceable year of NCAA eligibility.”
The lawsuit says Richmond chose YSU both because it was close to home in Steubenville, and because he believed Bo Pellini and University President Jim Tressel might be open-minded enough to “look beyond what the suit characterizes as `serious mistakes he had made and paid for as a juvenile’ and to help him to achieve his educational goals and his dream of playing professional football, according to 21 WFMJ.
“The suit claims that Richmond’s high school coach Reno Saccoccia called Tressel, who according to the complaint, said he was fine with Richmond playing football for YSU, but wanted the decision to be made by Pellini,” the 21 WFMJ’s report reads
Coach Pellini allegedly offered Richmond the choice of joining the team immediately as a walk-on, (a non-recruited, non-scholarship player) or waiting until the beginning of the 2017 season to walk-on. The coach is said to have noted that it was late to be starting last year’s football season and suggested that Richmond would benefit from a delay by having time to learn the playbook, work out and get acclimated to YSU, 21 WFMJ says.
The lawsuit says that as a result of the public outcry when Richmond expressed unwillingness to return to practice in mid-August, Coach Pellini, Coach Smith and three of Richmond’s teammates, jumped in a car and drove to Steubenville to talk to Ma’lik.
Coach Pellini, according to the complaint, apologized for the situation and told him that he felt Richmond had the skill to play in the NFL if he applied himself, comparing Ma’lik’s ability to that of a YSU player who had just been drafted by the New England Patriots, according to 21 WFMJ.
The suit also says the university announced the decision to keep Richmond from playing without first informing Pellini.
After it became known that Richmond was on the team, student Katelyn Davis published her online petition to have him removed from the Penguin roster because of his rape conviction. As this writer was finishing up final copyediting of this story late Thursday night, the petition Katelyn posted on Change.org had 11,548 supporters, shy of the 3,452 target of 15,000 electronic signatures.
So now YSU has a lawsuit from a young man who was in so much trouble a few years ago, that if he was tried as an adult back then, he would most likely still be in prison. And the “Big Man on Campus” who was hired because the political leaders, business community, and most of the avid sports fans in town simply love him might be seeing dollars leave the school rather than arrive in its coffers. Let’s hope things don’t get much more litigious with this legal trainwreck, though. YSU’s students and their parents sacrifice a lot in paying tuition. Mostly a commuter school, many of YSU’s students work jobs in their community and saving hard-earned cash for school is a true sacrifice.
Meantime, the rest of us are waiting to see Ma’Lik Richmond in a Cleveland Browns uniform. Maybe he’ll be the great hope to bring the Browns out of the ashes.