Two former assistant football coaches at Cal State Northridge have made a $6-million legal claim against the university for allegedly retaliating against them for cooperating with an investigation into alleged NCAA rules violations.
A lawyer for the former coaches said a formal lawsuit will follow if the university does not soon respond to the claim, which was mailed Oct. 8.
The claimants, Craig Wall and Keith Borges Jr., were assistant football coaches until an anonymous letter sparked an inquiry into possible National Collegiate Athletic Assn. violations.
University spokesman John Chandler declined to comment on allegations made in the claim letter because it involves potential litigation.
In August, Cal State Northridge issued a 130-page internal report detailing alleged abuses involving football coaches, ranging from the use of slush funds to holding illegal barbecues to filing fraudulent expense reports, among other improper actions. Interim President Louanne Kennedy fired head football coach Ron Ponciano in July, shortly after the internal investigation was launched.
Wall and Borges went on lengthy vacations during the investigation and on their return found themselves off the football sidelines and in the classroom.
“They complied with the investigation . . . and we believe they were retaliated against for their honesty and for being forthright,” said Monica Jimenez, co-counsel for Wall and Borges. “Now they’re just assigned to teaching positions at the university. All they ever wanted to do is to be coaches and they were excellent coaches.”
Chandler said Dick Dull, who was hired as athletic director during the internal investigation, prevented the men from coaching again. Chandler said he could not discuss why Wall and Borges were reassigned to the classroom because it is a personnel matter.
“There is a certain amount of discretion that comes into play for work assignments,” he said.
Wall and Borges do not claim any lost wages, but Jimenez said “their integrity was questioned and their honor was impugned and maligned.” The $6 million is for punitive damages, Jimenez said.
According to the claim, Cal State Northridge internal auditor Peter Dinauer and other university officials assured the two men they would keep their coaching jobs if they cooperated fully with the investigation.
But when the investigation began, according to the claim, “the football coaching staff, including Ron Ponciano, began exerting pressure on Borges and Wall to disclose what they had told the investigators. When Borges and Wall refused to give any information, the football coaching staff began to ostracize Borges and Wall.”
Wall and Borges said they informed Dinauer of their colleagues’ alleged intimidation. But neither Jimenez nor her co-counsel, Frank Pitre, would specify what sort of pressure was brought to bear on the men.
Dinauer did not return calls to his office, and Wall and Borges could not be reached at their campus offices Monday.
Wall was hired as a running back coach and Borges was hired as a defensive coordinator during the 1998-99 football season. They have retained their coaching assistant titles, but are now teaching physical education courses at Cal State Northridge.