A former Washington State football player has filed a civil lawsuit in Whitman County Superior Court against coach Mike Leach and the Student-Athlete Appeals Committee.
According to court documents, former WSU defensive back Zaire Webb, 18, from Jacksonville, Fla., claims he was denied due process and his four-year, $125,000 athletic scholarship was wrongfully revoked.
Webb was cut from the team Oct. 5 – one day after he was arrested for allegedly stealing from Walmart in Pullman.
The third-degree theft charge Webb faced from the alleged incident was later dropped due to lack of evidence.
The civil suit alleges the WSU athletic department violated its own code of conduct and discipline policy by releasing Webb.
According to that policy, “In the case of behavioral problems which involve formal criminal charges by a law enforcement agency, the involved student-athlete will be placed on suspension by the department of athletics until the facts of the incident are reviewed.”
A written statement from Leach to the university’s Student-Athlete Appeals Committee states, “(Webb’s) removal from the team was a culmination of events, which ended with his arrest on the suspicion of stealing from Walmart along with a teammate.”
Leach has said in the past that theft is one of the three violations that will automatically get a player dismissed from his team. Using an illegal drug and assaulting a woman are the other two; also known as Leach’s “three deadly sins.”
“There is no uncertainty where we stand in upholding them,” Leach wrote in the letter to the appeals committee.
The committee upheld Leach’s decision to release Webb, along with Leach’s recommendation to deny Webb from contacting any Pac-12 institutions, or any school on the WSU football schedule through the 2020 season.
“Every player is held to the same standards here and we have demonstrated that talent, athletic ability, age, or classification have no bearing on whether we keep or remove a player that violates any of our team policies,” Leach wrote in the letter to the appeals committee.
The suit alleges that is false and outlines several other players who were able to remain on the football team after they violated one of Leach’s “sins.”
According to the suit, in September of 2016, Logan Tago, who spent one month in jail after he pled guilty to a felony for mugging a man for a six-pack of beer, was allowed to remain on the team. Tago is expected to be senior on the football team next year.
The suit also cites defensive back Grant Porter, who remains on the roster although he is accused of assaulting his girlfriend in Moscow and threatening to “put bullet holes in her door” last fall, and former player Daquawn Brown who pled guilty to punching a woman in the face in 2014 and was not removed from the team. Brown led the Cougars in tackles that year.
In all, the suit claims those on the appeals committee breached their duty by accepting Leach’s unsworn statement, which contained multiple misrepresentations, the university failed to follow procedures, refused to provide due process, “and engineered a ‘kangaroo court' hearing with the predetermined purpose of upholding Mr. Leach’s decisions.”
Webb is seeking an unspecified amount of damages, an award of his attorney’s fees and costs, and any further relief found by the court.