The lawsuit by a former member of the USC football coaching staff against the school and defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast will be argued behind closed doors.
On Thursday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michelle Williams granted USC’s motion to compel arbitration in the lawsuit Rick Courtright filed earlier this year.
Courtright, who worked as the defensive quality control at USC from 2016 to 2018, signed a document when he was hired agreeing to arbitrate virtually all claims against the school.
“That plaintiff did not read the agreement before he signed it or ask for a copy of the arbitration rules does not negate the agreement,” Williams wrote in the ruling.
Courtright had previously agreed to arbitrate four of his seven claims against USC, including unfair business practices and whistleblower retaliation.
However, the former coach continued to pursue litigation on the remaining claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and negligent supervision.
“There is clear and unmistakable evidence that the parties intended the arbitrator to decide which causes of action fall under the scope of the agreement,” Williams wrote.
Arbitration is a common destination for litigation between former USC employees and the school, allowing the testimony and paper trail in the disputes to remain private. Steve Sarkisian, for example, sued USC over his firing in 2015. The case was sent to arbitration — Sarkisian had signed a similar agreement to Courtright — where Sarkisian lost in 2018.
Courtright, who has worked as a coach, scout or consultant for various NFL and college teams during the last 33 years, sued last month. He alleged undergraduate students were paid to pretend to be team graduate assistants to take online classes for them as part of their degree requirements and that Pendergast paid at least one of them.
The lawsuit said Courtright’s colleagues on the football coaching staff retaliated after he reported the concerns. The alleged incidents included leaving obscenity-filled sticky notes around his desk, moving his computer and gluing his mouse to a table.
Courtright also alleged in the lawsuit that he reported concerns about safety issues with the team’s pregame warmups and possible violations of NCAA rules relating to graduate assistants driving assistant coaches while they recruited.
USC head coach Clay Helton gave Courtright a choice of being fired or resigning in April 2018, the lawsuit said. He resigned in May 2018.
Williams issued a stay in the lawsuit pending the outcome of the arbitration.