The amended complaint details two decades of aberrant behavior by coaches, and deliberate inaction by the school and NCAA to stop abuse
SAN FRANCISCO – (July 15, 2022) Today, nine former University of San Francisco (USF) baseball players joined the class action lawsuit filed in March 2022 against their two (now former) baseball coaches, USF, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The players allege that USF coaches Anthony Giarratano and Troy Nakamura created an intolerable sexualized environment on the team over the course of 22 years, that USF knew about their misconduct and did nothing to stop it, and that the NCAA has inadequate policies in place to protect student-athletes from such abuse or prevent coaches from moving on to another member institution with impunity.
The amended complaint includes the claims brought by the original three plaintiffs. It provides vivid details of an environment rife with emotional abuse and highly sexualized behavior, with the earliest allegations dating back to 1999 — Giarratano’s first year as coach.
The original complaint was filed on March 11, 2022, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division. Since the filing, Giarratano and Nakamura have been fired, and USF athletic director, Joan McDermott, has left her position.
“Since we filed this case on behalf of three young student-athletes who had the courage to stand up and share their horrific experiences at USF, we’ve been contacted by many former USF baseball players who share similar stories of crippling emotional abuse and perverse sexual behavior by the USF coaches,” said Elizabeth Fegan, founding partner of FeganScott, and one of the attorneys representing the students. “These experiences clearly illustrate why USF and the NCAA should be held accountable for abuse by coaches.”
According to Fegan, the intent of the suit is to force the school to adopt and implement best practices to prevent future occurrences and to compensate the young men for the harm they suffered at the hands of the coaches.
“These nine new plaintiffs — who played baseball at USF going back to the very beginning of Giarratano and Nakamura’s coaching tenure — establish that this was not a one-off, one day, one player, or one season incident,” said Jonathan Selbin, a senior partner at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, who has led the firm’s litigation against the University of Southern California and the University of Michigan involving sexual abuse of students and serves as co-counsel on the present suit. “It was a two-decade period during which the coaches created a pervasive and intolerable sexualized environment that did lasting damage to these young players, that USF did nothing to stop despite its knowledge, and for which the NCAA had and has inadequate policies in place to address or prevent it from recurring.”
“The reality is that the University of San Francisco has an abysmal record in safeguarding students,” Fegan added. “The deplorable case involving the baseball team comes on the heels of similar allegations involving both the men’s soccer program and the women’s basketball program.”
“We are forced to use the civil court system to require the Jesuit school to make the changes it won’t make on its own,” she added.
The complaint also challenges the NCAA’s refusal to take meaningful steps to create penalties for sexual, violent, or criminal conduct by coaches or personnel in their athletics programs. While the NCAA freely metes out punishments for student-athletes for poor academic performance and disciplines athletes for profiting off their own likenesses, the NCAA’s bylaws do not contain any penalties for sexual, violent, or criminal conduct by coaches or personnel in their athletics programs.
According to the complaint, the NCAA has taken no action in the two decades since the NCAA adopted a coaching code of ethics in 1992, which prohibits sexual harassment and sexual relationships between coaches and athletes.
The complaint also cites the NCAA’s failure to track instances of abuse to prevent coaches from moving to different schools.
With over 140 pages, the complaint also cites repeated instances in which USF coaches used emotional abuse to force players to leave the team, often forced to walk away from guaranteed scholarships worth as much as $280,000.
“Our investigation has revealed that the coaches would routinely berate players with profanity-laced, sexualized screeds intended to humiliate and intimidate them, often in front of other players or fans,” said Fegan. “The intent was clear, to get the kids to quit, freeing up scholarships the coaches could dangle in front of other prospects, and the data supports this conclusion.”
According to the complaint of the 13 recruits in the 2017 USF class, only five stayed for four years. Of the 17 recruits in 2020, eight have transferred, and two are planning to, giving the team a 60% transfer rate compared to a national average of just 2%.
“Many of the student-athletes we represent are dealing with severe trauma, depression and other health issues stemming from the horrific sexualized abuse and bullying Giarratano and Nakamura put them through,” said Fegan. “These impressionable young men looked forward to a bright future playing college baseball with the training and mentorship they were promised. Instead, the coaches tasked with guiding and teaching them, abused and scarred them. These experiences at USF are an example of what happens when the NCAA is allowed to refuse responsibility.”
FeganScott is a national class-action law firm dedicated to helping victims of sexual abuse and sexual harassment. Elizabeth Fegan, the firm’s founder and managing member, represents the group of survivors suing criminally convicted movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. The firm, championed by acclaimed veteran, class-action attorneys who have successfully recovered $1 billion for victims nationwide, has helped survivors of sexual abuse reclaim their lives and seek compensation from their perpetrators. FeganScott is committed to pursuing successful outcomes with integrity and excellence while holding the responsible parties accountable.
About Lieff Cabraser
Lieff Cabraser is a national law firm that represents individuals and small businesses in a variety of individual and class action cases, including cases brought by survivors of sexual abuse against physicians, teachers, and the institutions who employ them, including the groundbreaking sexual abuse class action against the University of Southern California filed on behalf of nearly 18,000 women who were abused by USC gynecologist George Tyndall. Lieff Cabraser served as Co-Lead Class Counsel in the USC suit, securing a historic $215 million settlement for the survivors that also included sweeping institutional reforms requiring USC to make significant and substantial changes to ensure such sexual abuse never happens again on its campus. Lieff Cabraser is currently serving as Co-Lead Class Counsel in litigation against the University of Michigan on behalf of student-patient and other survivors of sexual abuse by the late Dr. Robert E. Anderson.
Case No. 3:22-cv-01559