It is staking money it really doesn't have hoping to hit the jackpot.
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It all reeks of a Hail Mary, and a desperate attempt by the university to absolve itself from the most tragic moment in its football history.
Driven by its insurance company Great America Assurance Co., the UCF Athletics Association is appealing to avoid unlimited damages on any other litigation. The university is doing everything possible to avoid cutting a $10 million check to Plancher's parents after a jury determined the UCFAA was negligent in Plancher's death in June of 2011.
That's money the UCFAA doesn't have. By contending that UCFAA is a state agency, there is a sovereign immunity cap of $200,000, which is quite the discount from $10 mil. And that lesser figure seems to be the insurance company's bottom line, which is why the legal battle continues in a brief filed by another one of the schools' legal arms, the firm of GrayRobinson.
The UCFAA would need approval from the state legislature to pay the Planchers the balance of its $10 million judgment if its insurance company refused to pay.
UCF doesn't have the big-money alumni who can cut checks when times are tough, which is why football coach George O'Leary has survived during the years the team has struggled. The university has never been able to afford the buyout clause. The university can't even afford to market a Top 25 baseball team after it ran out of money to promote anything other than its series against Rice.
So while it all may make sense from a legal standpoint — and the university has to hope that an appellate judge agrees — the rest of the legal strategy reeks of the reaction of a petulant child crying to get its way.
UCF claiming the judge has it in for the school sounds very juvenile to me.
The appeal argues that Circuit Judge Robert M. Evans mismanaged the trial and made disparaging remarks about a UCFAA attorney in front of the jury. They are also arguing that Plancher signed a waiver before working out with the UCF football team, absolving the program of program of all liability.
So to review: The judge hates us and it's not our fault.
That's an insulting legal maneuver. Neither O'Leary or the university killed Ereck Plancher. The kind of conditioning drills that Plancher participated in on the day he died are commonplace in college football, but they shouldn't be.
But was UCF negligent? I certainly think so, and most importantly, a six-person jury agreed.
UCF and O'Leary can't escape the fact that a young man died under their watch, and that the school should have acted more pro-actively in dealing with a player who had sickle-cell trait. Robert Jackson, the only athletic trainer on hand when Plancher collapsed, didn't know. Neither did wide receiver coach David Kelly, Plancher's position coach. The university also has no written record that Plancher was informed of the positive test results for sickle-cell trait.
By appealing, the UCF is simply asking everyone to pile on after the initial public relations disaster. It is keeping its darkest tragedy in the news, building a clip file for every single recruiter in the nation.
"We don't kill players at our place like UCF does."
It sounds cold and calculating, but all is fair in the cutthroat world of college recruiting.
UCF lost a player, then lost a trial.
How much more can it afford to lose before going totally bankrupt?
Read George Diaz's blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/enfuego or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org