Ex-Northwestern basketball player sues NCAA, school over transfer rule

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Former Northwestern basketball player Johnnie Vassar filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the school and the NCAA, wanting to eliminate the transfer rule.

Vassar says in his lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, that school officials forced him to give up his scholarship and did so by misleading him and intimidation.

The lawsuit, obtained by the Daily Northwestern and other media outlets, says once Vassar left the basketball team, he was forced to sit out for a season under the NCAA's “destructive” rules.  Vassar's lawyers claim the rule violates antitrust law.

The suit also alleges that Vassar was placed in an “internship,” which required him to report at 7 a.m. several days a week and to work as a janitor.

“Johnnie picked up trash and leaves, operated a leaf blower, put salt on sidewalks and under cars, wiped down the outside tennis court bleachers, swept the baseball diamonds, and lift heavy metal planks near the football field (hurting his shoulder),” the complaint says.

“We do not believe this claim has any legal merit,”  Northwestern's vice president for university relations Al Cubbage said in a statement. “We will defend the University vigorously.”

Vassar left the program after the 2014-15 season and says that Northwestern forced him out in order to use his scholarship for another player.

Vassar did stay in school for the next year as his athletic scholarship was converted into an academic scholarship. That was done so for the purpose of not counting toward the NCAA's limit of 13 athletic scholarships per team, according to the lawsuit. 

Northwestern head coach Chris Collins was asked about the lawsuit and said “We'll let those things be handled behind closed doors.”

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