Thu., July 15, 2010 3:44pm (EDT)

White Football Players Sue HBCU
By Orlando Montoya
Updated: 4 years ago

SAVANNAH, Ga.  —  
Savannah State University President, Dr. Earl Yarbrough, is named as a defendent in the reverse-discrimination lawsuit.  (photo Savannah State University)
Savannah State University President, Dr. Earl Yarbrough, is named as a defendent in the reverse-discrimination lawsuit. (photo Savannah State University)
Four white football players are suing Savannah State University, saying the historically-black school discriminated against them by withdrawing scholarship offers made by a former coach.

School officials fired the coach, who is white, this year.

The players say, once that happened, their scholarships were reneged.

It's not unusual for schools to reverse offers when coaches leave, but this one, the players contend, was race-based.

Representing the players, attorney Matt Billips says, all you have to do is look at the racial make-up of Savannah State and nearby Armstrong Atlantic State Universities.

"They were formed as segregated institutions. They have been perpetuated as segregated institutions," Billips says. "The mission of Savannah State is to preserve its character as an essentially segregated institution."

SSU's non-black student population is 10% and AASU's non-white student population is about 25%.

Billips says, administration officials also fired the coach for race-based reasons.

"The coach was fired after having been told that he wasn't ever going to fit in for two reasons," Billips says. "One, because he was white and, second, because his fiance is black."

The coach, Robby Wells, has his own race-discrimination lawsuit against Savannah State.

An attorney for SSU denies the accusations.

School attorney Joe Steffen says, the players were not being recruited and the coach didn't even have authority to make scholarship offers.

"You kind of feel sorry for kids, in a way, that are out there," Steffen says. "They think because a coach has been to see them playing a game that that means they're 'being recruited' by a university and it may be nothing more than a first informal contact."

Steffen says, before any scholarship offer is made, it goes up the chain of command for the athletic director's approval.

"Until that paperwork is submitted and until the coach has authority to grant them a scholarship, there is no scholarship offered," Steffen says.

School officials have said that Wells violated recruiting rules set by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The school has more than a month to file a formal response to the lawsuit.