Two months ago Robert Wells, the former football coach at historically black university Savannah State, filed a lawsuit against the school claiming he was forced to resign on Jan. 28 because his fiancee is black.
Wells, who is white, also noted in the complaint filed to U.S. District Court in Atlanta that the school was hurting his reputation by claiming he committed recruiting violations.
Tuesday a lawsuit against the school was filed by four white students who Wells previously recruited to SSU and promised scholarships. The four were scheduled to visit the university on Jan. 30 and 31, “to sign their letters of intent to enroll at and play football for SSU.”
But after Wells resigned on Jan. 28, the students’ scholarships were apparently pulled.
In a 19-page complaint also filed to Atlanta U.S. District Court, Jacob Farmer, Andrew Cannon, Rico Arellano and Forrest Hill accused Savannah State of operating “unlawfully, specifically with regard to the decision to deny them admission and athletic scholarships on account of their race, white.”
The ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION also notes that the four claimed to have “suffered actual monetary loss as well as emotional and mental anguish caused by (Savannah State’s) unlawful racial discrimination.”
The complaint also states that SSU officials “asserted that they withdrew the scholarships offered to (the students) because they are not residents of the state of Georgia.”
Forrest Hill is a graduating senior at Morrow High School and lives in Jonesboro, Georgia. The other three live outside the state.
Courthouse News Service has more on the departure of Wells in late January:
Wells was hired in 2007. In 2008 he coached the football team to five victories, which “equaled the total number of wins the team had accumulated over the previous five seasons and was also the best season Savannah State had experienced in 11 years,” Wells says in his complaint.
The 5-win season prompted Claude Flythe, vice president of administration and a defendant, to announce that Wells would have a “job as long as I have one here,” according to the complaint.
But Wells says his job security was threatened in 2009 when he used his own money to produce a “coach’s show” on TV, to boost the football team.
The show was hosted by Wells’ black fiancée, Nicole Miller.
Wells claims that in a meeting in January this year, Flythe and Marilynn Stacey-Suggs, interim athletic director and also a defendant, criticized him for “his association with his fiancée, a black female, including his use of her to host his weekly coach’s show, his allowing her to ride with him on a parade float, and her accompanying him on away football games.”
Later that month, in another meeting, Wells says Flythe told him he had a choice of “resigning right then or being terminated immediately.”
Wells says he chose to resign to “prevent the recruits who were less than a week away from National Signing Day from experiencing anxiety.”
By the end of National Signing Day, Wells says, he found that five of the young men he had recruited for the 2010 season and who had been given a verbal commitment from the school were not offered scholarships or a spot on the roster. He says all of the five men are white.
Wells claims that Suggs and Julius Dixon, the new black interim head football coach and a defendant, said in interviews that the recruits were not signed because Coach Wells “had not followed applicable rules and regulations regarding paperwork, thus the white players were not official recruits and no one at SSU knew of them.”
But Wells said there were files on the white recruits and several of them “conducted official college recruiting visits to SSU and met.
The about face by the SSU administration in its support of Wells, who did experience considerable success compared to past coaches, is curious.
But his leap to racism as the sole cause of his dismissal is a considerable one. Though with an all-black school as the backdrop of this case, it can’t help but cause some pause in consideration of what transpired.