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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Ex-Matadors File Suit Against School

Football: Transfers Charles, Gunn claim their eligibility last season was assured by Northridge.

September 25, 1998|FERNANDO DOMINGUEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — Two former Cal State Northridge football players are suing the university, claiming general negligence.

Deriek Charles, who played at Hart High and Valley College, and Tyrone Gunn filed papers on Sept. 17 in Los Angeles Superior Court through their attorney, Charles O. Agege.

Charles, a running back, sat out last season with the Matadors and Gunn, a defensive end, played briefly.

They were declared ineligible because each attended two other Division I schools before transferring to Northridge in the fall of 1997. Charles attended Washington State, Valley and Nevada Las Vegas, and Gunn attended Fresno State, L.A. Southwest College and Arizona.

Under NCAA rules, players who transfer from one four-year school to another more than once must sit out a year.

Paul Bubb, Northridge's athletic director, and John Chandler, a school spokesman, said they were not aware the school had been served papers. Patrick Carroll, an attorney who represents the California State University system and handles Northridge's legal affairs, had not seen the suit either.

"Sometimes it takes a few days to serve [papers]," Carroll said.

Gunn and Charles, who could not be reached for comment, contend in the suit they were assured by Northridge they would be eligible to play last season. They claim the school was negligent in reviewing their transcripts and the ineligibility seriously jeopardized their prospects in the 1998 NFL draft.

"The [Northridge] athletic director admitted he screwed up," Agege said. "He said he thought [Gunn and Charles] would be able to play and it turned out he didn't carefully review the NCAA eligibility standards."

Bubb said he has never spoken with Agege or the two former players about the situation.

"If we made any mistakes it was in letting [Gunn] play when [he] was ineligible," Bubb said. "I don't know who supposedly guaranteed them they would play, but any agreements they signed [with Northridge] is based on their meeting eligibility requirements.

"The fact of the matter was that they were ineligible when the process was completed."

Jeff Kearin, a Northridge assistant coach who helped process Gunn's paperwork, believed Gunn wasn't governed by the NCAA double-transfer guidelines because he attended a junior college before enrolling at Arizona.

"I thought the J.C. wiped it out and he had a one-time transfer," Kearin said. "It's the only time a J.C. doesn't clean your slate. Usually, that [associate of arts] degree is a cure-all.

"I didn't investigate hard enough. I thought it was a cut-and-dry thing . . . I really didn't know [Gunn] had gone to Fresno [State]."

Kearin said Gunn suffered an ankle injury against Hawaii in Northridge's second game of the 1997 season, and left the team. Charles, The Times' Valley region back of the year in 1992 after rushing for 1,133 yards and 12 touchdowns at Hart, practiced with the Matadors before he was declared ineligible.

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Times staff writer Evelyn Larrubia contributed to this report.

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