The news in the Athens Banner-Herald that the legal battle between the UGA Athletic Association and former football player Decory Bryant finally has been settled for $400,000 after more than five years prompts one big question: What took them so long?
Bryant had sued the athletic association because he said it was the athletic association’s fault he was denied an insurance policy that would have paid him as much as $500,000 after a neck injury ended his playing career in 2003.
It came out in documents filed in the case that the player had asked for the policy but an athletic association administrator failed to turn in the paperwork on time. But in December, Clarke County Superior Court Judge Lawton Stephens had dismissed Bryant’s suit, ruling that while the athletic association is a private corporation, it is legally an arm of the state and therefore falls under the doctrine of sovereign immunity.
Bryant’s attorney, Hue Henry, had planned to appeal, but that’s moot now that the athletic association has settled.
Ed Tolley, the athletic association’s lawyer, told the Banner-Herald that Mark Richt and UGA athletic officials wanted to pay for Bryant’s medical bills and rehabilitation costs all along. “The athletic association never intended not to work out some kind of monetary agreement with Decory Bryant,” Tolley said.
I know that part of the delay was the athletic association and Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. went to court over who would have to pay legal costs in the case. But the bottom line is that if the athletic association intended all along to take care of Bryant, why make him wait five years and go through a court case? Why didn’t they just pay him up front? I’m sure any underlying legal/liability isues could have been taken care of in a simple settlement five years ago: The athletic association agrees to pay and the player agrees not to sue.
Instead, the athletic association did it the hard way and ended up looking like it didn’t care about the player.
It’s not as if UGA’s athletic association is hurting for money. And while there might not have been a specific legal obligation for the athletic association to pay Bryant’s medical bills, there was a definite moral obligation to take care of the young man. The athletic association makes millions of dollars off these kids; the least it can do is make sure they’re taken care of if they’re permanently damaged in some way while playing for the school.
As the frequent Bulldog Club solicitations seeking donations from fans remind us, “UGA student athletes need your support.”
That’s a sentiment the folks at Butts-Mehre should take to heart as well.
BASEBALL AND CHANCE RETURN TO ATHENS
David Perno’s Diamond Dogs, who went 2-2 last weekend in a mini tournament with Baylor and Duke in Texas, play their home opener today at 5 p.m. against Presbyterian at Foley Field (if the weather cooperates).
The best thing coming out of the first weekend of play was that sophomore center fielder Zach Cone hit .688 for the weekend (11-for-16), including hitting for the cycle in last Saturday’s loss to Duke, making him the first Bulldog to do that in six seasons. With most of Georgia’s big bats from last season now departed, the rise of Cone at the plate is welcome news.
Freshman infielder Chance Veazey, paralyzed from the waist down in a motor scooter accident last October, will be on hand at today’s game and will be introduced along with his teammates.
Fans attending games at Foley Field this season will have an opportunity to contribute to the Prayers for Chance fund set up for Veazey, who is now completing fall class work at home and plans to return to UGA fulltime next year and work with the baseball program. Fans are encouraged to contribute a dollar to the fund each time they attend a Bulldog home game. The Dogs drew more than 93,000 fans last year at Foley Field and have set a goal of raising $100,000 for Veazey.
The team is wearing a special “CV” logo on its uniforms and helmets in honor of Veazey this season. And a limited edition Georgia baseball team cap with the “CV” logo patch will be given to the first 500 fans this season who make a minimum donation of $20. The UGA Diamond Darlings will be outside the ballpark at each game this year collecting donations until the fourth inning. After that, they will be at a table at the end of the grandstand on the first base side of the stadium. Cash and checks will be accepted. Checks should be made out to “Prayers for Chance Fund.”
Go Dogs! GO CHANCE!