Former compliance officer, Marshall settle lawsuit

Published 3:31 am Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A former athletic compliance officer who claims Marshall University used him as a scapegoat said Monday he has settled a lawsuit against the university and several officials for an undisclosed amount.

The lawsuit filed by David Ridpath was scheduled to go to trial this week before U.S. District Judge Chuck Chambers in Huntington. But lawyers notified the court Monday of the pending settlement.

Ridpath, who now is an assistant professor at Ohio University, claimed he was blamed after the university was placed on four years probation and was stripped of some football and basketball scholarships. Ridpath was demoted after the sanctions were imposed in 2001 and was fired in 2003.

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The lawsuit had named Marshall’s Board of Governors, then-president Dan Angel, then-football coach Bob Pruett and general counsel F. Layton Cottrill. It had sought $1 million in damages and alleged fraud, breach of contract and violations of Ridpath’s free speech and due process rights.

Ridpath declined to reveal the amount of the settlement but called it ‘‘fair.’’ He said the amount will likely be released once the settlement is completed in the next few days.

‘‘I’m obviously relieved that this painful episode is over for me, my family and for Marshall as well,’’ Ridpath told The Associated Press. ‘‘It enables both parties to move on.’’

Charleston attorney Charles Bailey, who represented Marshall in the lawsuit, and Chuck Jones, director of the state Board of Risk and Insurance Management, the state’s liability insurance carrier, said they had not seen a signed agreement and declined comment Monday.

Pruett’s attorney, Edward Kowal of Huntington, didn’t immediately return a telephone message.

Ridpath was hired as assistant athletic director in charge compliance in 1997.

According to the lawsuit, after he reported some academic violations to the NCAA in 1999, he became aware that some student-athletes were receiving improper employment assistance at the McCorkle Machine Shop in Huntington, which is owned by Marshall booster Marshall Reynolds.

Reynolds was cited by the NCAA in December 2001 for providing extra work benefits for Marshall athletes. The school was ordered to sever all ties with the Huntington multimillionaire for at least five years. Reynolds has said he was wrongly saddled with most of the blame by the university during the NCAA investigation.

Ridpath was reassigned in 2001 to the position of director of judicial programs and, according to the lawsuit, his position was terminated two years later allegedly because of negative comments he made during the NCAA investigation.

As part of the settlement, Marshall has agreed to clarify to the NCAA that Ridpath was not involved in major violations. A statement issued by Ridpath’s attorneys said Marshall will send a letter to the NCAA Committee on Infractions stating that Ridpath’s removal was ‘‘a separate personnel decision by the university predicated on his conduct at the Sept. 22, 2001, NCAA hearing.’’

‘‘I wish Marshall University the best of luck in the future,’’ Ridpath said. ‘‘I loved my job when I was there. It was important for me to get resolution to this.’’