Former player sues WSU, football coach over dismissal

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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SPOKANE, Wash. – A former Washington State player contends in a lawsuit that his civil rights were violated when he was kicked off the football team after complaining about potential exposure to COVID-19 and for joining an association of Black student-athletes.

Kassidy Woods, a wide receiver from Addison, Texas, filed the lawsuit on Aug. 20 in federal court in Dallas.

He contends his rights were violated by Washington State coach Nick Rolovich and by the Pullman-based university when he was kicked off the team last year. Woods seeks actual and punitive damages set by the court.

“Rolovich’s acts were racist, intentional, malicious, willful, wanton, and in gross and reckless disregard of Woods’ constitutional rights,” the lawsuit contends.

Woods entered the transfer portal last year and has landed at Northern Colorado.

“WSU Athletics is aware of the complaint and will not comment on any pending or on-going legal matter,” the Washington State athletic department said in a statement Wednesday.

Woods, who is Black, said he was heavily recruited by former coach Mike Leach and in 2017 accepted a football scholarship. He signed legal financial aid documents in accepting the offer.

Woods also cofounded the Black Student Association at WSU and was active in a variety of leadership roles, the lawsuit said.

Rolovich replaced Leach in January 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the U.S. two months later, the lawsuit said.

In June 2020, the school started asking athletes to voluntarily return to campus to participate in football-related activities, the lawsuit said. The school promised to take precautions to prevent athletes from catching COVID-19, the lawsuit said. That was important to Woods, who carries the sickle cell trait and was susceptible to the virus, the lawsuit said.

“Unfortunately, the promised environment of campus as the “safest place” for athletes was a complete fabrication by Defendants,” the lawsuit said.

Players, many of whom were Black, began catching COVID-19, and Woods and other players began questioning the return to campus.

At the same time, protests were occurring across the country based on several high-profile cases of police brutality against Black people, the lawsuit said.

“A coalition of discussion between Black athletes formed around these ideas and questions,” the lawsuit said. “Ultimately, a group of Pac-12 athletes identified in a social and racial justice group by the name of “#WeAreUnited.”

In July 2020, Woods and another player met with Rolovich to discuss the #WeAreUnited movement, their concerns regarding the health risks associated with their athletic participation, and the apparent lack of planning or testing, among other concerns, the lawsuit said. Their worries were confirmed when 60 student-athletes at WSU came down with COVID-19, the lawsuit said.

On Aug. 1, 2020, Woods and Rolovich had an additional conversation about COVID-19 and Woods’ concerns for his own health. Woods told Rolovich that, due to his health concerns, he was going to opt out of the 2020 football season.

Rolovich responded by asking if Woods was a part of the #WeAreUnited group. Woods affirmed that he was, the lawsuit said. In response, Rolovich told Woods that opting out for health reasons was fine, but being involved with #WeAreUnited was a problem, the lawsuit said.

According to the court filings, Rolovich then immediately instructed Woods to clean out his locker and told Woods he could not be around the other players.

Woods subsequently entered the NCAA transfer portal. Woods was notified almost immediately by Washington State that his contract for athletic services would be terminated at the end of the fall semester.

Woods contends his 1st Amendment right to freedom of association was violated by the university, as was his 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law.

Woods also contends breach of contract by Washington State under a binding agreement requiring Woods to provide athletic services to the school in exchange for certain benefits, including housing, food, and cash allowances.

Woods also contends the university violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which holds that no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

Rolovich has also sparked controversy this year by initially saying he wouldn’t get vaccinated against COVID-19. He has since said he will abide by the Washington governor’s mandate that all university employees be vaccinated, with few exemptions. But he has not said if he has received a shot or sought an exemption.

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.