Ex-USC football staffer suing school over whistle blowing NCAA violations

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

USC football has been caught up in a new scandal after a former staffer alleged in a lawsuit that he was ousted for blowing the whistle on possible NCAA violations.

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Monday marks new USC president Carol Folt’s first day on the job, and already she may have some new big concerns to deal with relating to USC football.

A former Trojan quality control assistant alleged in a lawsuit that he witnessed NCAA violations during his time with the program.

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The Los Angeles Times detailed the allegations:

"Rick Courtright, USC’s defensive quality control assistant from 2016 to 2018, said in the lawsuit he overheard graduate assistants Brett Arce and Austin Clark discuss working with defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast to pay two students to take online classes for the graduate assistants. The lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court said Courtright later witnessed Pendergast, who is named in the complaint along with the school, hand an unspecified amount of cash to Clark. He passed it to one of the students."

In response to the lawsuit, USC said it is investigating the claims.

It’s not clear how high on the NCAA scale of violations these kinds of allegations would rate. For his part, Courtright alleges they violated state and federal laws regarding academic fraud.

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According to Courtright, he was subjected to retaliation and ultimately lost his job because he reported the alleged violations to USC’s compliance department.

When it comes to proof, Courtright may not have much more than his word, but his lawsuit is yet another perception black eye for the Trojan athletics department and specifically the coaching staff.

USC has been very risk averse when it comes to allegations, proven and unproven, related to NCAA violations. Clancy Pendergast being implicated in this latest bout of negative publicity could have interesting consequences. After all, he was reportedly in danger of losing his job after the 2018 season, but head coach Clay Helton ultimately decided to keep him on with a reworked defensive coaching staff.

Even as Folt begins her presidency, July is far from an ideal month for decision-making on a lawsuit alleging NCAA violations though. The Trojans may opt to let their investigation unfold through the fall before any real fallout from this develops. That’s if they plan to take the allegations seriously in the first place.

It’s very much wait-and-see at this point.