Boycotting San Jose St. Players Obtain Legal Counsel

Times Staff Writer

The 10 San Jose State basketball players who are boycotting practices and games in protest of Coach Bill Berry’s treatment of them may sue if their scholarships are revoked, a lawyer with Melvin M. Belli’s firm said Friday.

The players, who have accused Berry of “mental cruelty” and refused to practice or play again until Berry resigns or is fired, met with attorney Paul Monzione Thursday and are scheduled to meet today with Belli, the San Francisco lawyer who has been called the “king of torts.” Belli did not meet with the players earlier because he was out of the country.

“We’re very concerned that these young men don’t lose any of their scholarship benefits or their right to play for the school,” said Monzione, who termed Berry’s treatment of the players “shocking” according to what the players had told him.

San Jose State has backed Berry but has not announced a decision regarding the scholarships, which under National Collegiate Athletic Assn. rules could be rescinded before the new semester begins next week, since the players left the team voluntarily.


Before San Jose State lost to Cal State Fullerton Thursday with a makeshift team that included four football players, Athletic Director Randy Hoffman indicated that the scholarships likely will be revoked.

“If a student-athlete makes a decision, they need to be responsible for it,” Hoffman said.

Repeated attempts to reach Berry for comment Friday were unsuccessful.

Hoffman, the athletic director, backed Berry repeatedly on Thursday, acknowledging that last year he had told Berry to “mellow” in his treatment of players and officials this year.

“I think he’s done that,” Hoffman said. “I don’t know if it’s a requirement for athletes to be happy all the time.”

Times staff writers Steve Elling and Gary Klein contributed to this story.