ORLANDO — The legal fight between UCF and the family of a player who collapsed and died after conditioning drills is headed for the state's highest court.
The Florida Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to hear an appeal of the reduction of the monetary award in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Ereck Plancher, a 19-year-old wide receiver from Naples who died in 2008. The court issued an order accepting jurisdiction, but it will not be hearing oral arguments. It instead is choosing to review the case record and legal briefs from attorneys.
In August 2013, a three-judge appeals court panel reduced a jury's $10 million civil trial damage judgment awarded to Plancher's parents in 2011 to $200,000.
It ruled UCF's power of control over its athletics association — UCFAA — was sufficient for sovereign immunity afforded to state agencies in civil judgments. The $200,000 figure is the most a state agency is required to pay under legislative statute. Any higher amount requires approval of the legislature.
The Supreme Court's ruling could impact how universities in Florida administer their athletic programs in the future. UCF and several other universities run their athletic programs as private, direct-support organizations that are granted certain state agency protections, including the statutory cap for legal judgments. A ruling against the UCF athletics association could make it and other state athletic direct support organizations vulnerable to uncapped judgments in future legal cases.
USF: Transfer excites
TAMPA — Transfer LB LeGrande Harley had two interceptions and a fumble recovery in the inaugural live scrimmage of the preseason at the Morsani Practice Complex. It was closed to the public, but the school provided a smattering of updates on its official football Twitter feed. Harley, who played the past two seasons at Georgia Military College, is among a gluttony of linebackers vying for playing time in the new 3-4 scheme.
Other highlights included an 80-yard scoring drive engineered by sophomore QB Mike White and capped by sophomore RB Darius Tice's 10-yard TD run on a cutback. Freshman WR Tyre McCants made a diving TD catch in the corner of the end zone on a pass thrown by classmate Quinton Flowers. The Bulls are expected to scrimmage again — in a closed setting — Saturday.
FINE WITH 3-4: Based on the initial eye test and various player sound bites, the Bulls have transitioned solidly to the 3-4, but defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan noted a more definite conclusion would be drawn after the first two live scrimmages. The switch from a four-man front maximizes the gluttony of outside linebackers and speed rushers while employing the athleticism of their down linemen. Senior Elkino Watson, who began his career as a three-technique, is capable of lining up anywhere along the front. "What I like most about the 3-4 is how every other play we're stunting around and moving, so nobody's really standing still," Watson said. "It makes it hard for linemen to block you when you're moving across their face a lot."
Joey Knight, Times staff writer
UF: Offense loaded
GAINESVILLE — Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's perfect scenario? An arsenal of at least three running backs and six receivers to make his up-tempo offense optimal.
"The more the better is what it really gets down to," he said. "But typically you go into a game, with running backs you're going to kind of lean on two and three's going to show up in there some and you never know how the injuries are going to go and whatnot. Then receivers, if you've got a group of six to rotate that are really capable, you're in good shape. Back in 2012, we really played three guys the whole year."
The Gators are counting on RBs Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor, with Mack Brown, Brandon Powell, Adam Lane and Mark Herndon potentially in the mix. Jones missed another practice with swelling in his knee, and Taylor has been hampered by a hamstring injury. Multiple receivers, including Quinton Dunbar, Ahmad Fulwood, Andre Debose and Demarcus Robinson, are showing signs of consistency, Roper said.
He believes the Gators have the talent — and numbers — necessary to be successful: "There's guys that give us a chance to win when they're in the game with that amount of numbers."
Antonya English, Times staff writer