A group of Texas A&M donors who feel they've been wronged by the university in terms of seating and parking at Kyle Field can pursue legal remedy as a class action, according to a state district judge.
As reported by the Houston Chronicle, the 52-page opinion signed Tuesday by Judge Delinda Gibbs Walker certified a class of several hundred longtime A&M endowed donors to join as plaintiffs in a 2017 lawsuit filed by 1980 A&M graduate Nathan Hines, who says the foundation deprived him and others of ticketing and parking rights promised when they made endowment agreements with the 12th Man Foundation in the 1980s and ’90s.
At issue could be up to 400 or more endowment agreements that could involve as many as a thousand seats at Kyle Field, which was expanded to 102,733 seats as part of a $480 million project completed in 2015, the Chronicle reports.
Hines’ lawsuit, initially filed in December 2017, alleges breach of contract and other violations by the foundation and its directors. The plaintiffs seek either to have what they believe are their proper seat and parking locations at Kyle Field restored or, as an alternative, damages, costs and fees in excess of a million dollars.
Gibbs Walker, who presided over a Sept. 26 hearing on the request for class action certification, said the class would include “all owners and beneficiaries of a Texas A&M University 12th Man Foundation Permanently Endowed Scholarship Program Agreement who have not settled and released their claim (against the foundation) for the imposition of additional charges or fees for home and away football game seating benefits and home football parking benefits, and/or for the (diminishment) of those benefits.”
The endowments, attorneys claim, were critical factors for a financially challenged A&M athletic department in the 1980s and ’90s. As the department’s finances have improved, however, the 12th Man Foundation has steadily moved to renege on its promises to longtime donors, attorneys claim. Attorneys Bill Cobb of Austin, Scott McQuarrie of Porter and Blair Bisbey of Newton said in a statement that A&M reneged on its promises. “It did so by reselling their coveted parking locations and, later, their ‘lifetime seat locations’ that foundation documents show they had been promised, to the ‘next generation’ of big donors in order to fund Kyle Field renovations,” the attorneys' statement says.
Attorneys claimed in the original lawsuit that 12th Man Foundation officials began in 2004 to downgrade parking rights granted to longtime donors in favor of requirements that would bring money from new donors, according to the Chronicle. That effort culminated, they said, in the reseating campaign associated with the stadium’s expansion.