The Big 12 will be joining the NCAA as a defendant in a refiled civil lawsuit brought by former members of the University of Texas at Austin football team. Former athletes and their families are seeking damages for brain injuries sustained on the college playing field.
The lawsuit alleges that the Big 12 and the NCAA have “prioritized on-field performance over the off-field consequences that would haunt their student-athletes for the rest of their lives.”
Julius Whittier, a former player for the University of Texas, says he has been suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s since the age of 58, due to failure on the part of the Big 12 and NCAA to provide adequate protection from life-altering brain injury.
The suit also claims that “until 2010, defendants Big 12 and the NCAA kept their players and the public in the dark about an epidemic that was slowly killing their athletes.”
The class action lawsuit has been expanded to advocate for college football athletes who did not pursue a pro football career between 1952 and 2014, including former Longhorns athlete Alan Rickman, who died of Alzheimer’s in 2011 at age 54.
The NCAA defended itself in a public statement, saying, “Student-athlete safety is one of the NCAA's foundational principles. The NCAA has been at the forefront of safety issues throughout its existence, and the Association has specifically addressed the issue of head injuries through a combination of playing rules, equipment requirements, and medical best practices. Despite this new filing, we continue to believe our policies and rules address student-athlete safety.”
Attorney Dwight Jefferson told CBS Austin, “This case is all about supporting families in their time of need and we want to be able to put together some structure where we can accomplish that.”