LOS ANGELES (CNS) – One former and one current NCAA official testified via deposition Monday that they believed it is generally up to individual university school administrations to decide their own safety protocol when it comes to preventing and dealing with concussions suffered by those playing team sports.
Alana Gee, the 58-year-old widow of former USC football player Matthew Gee, is suing the NCAA for failing to protect her husband from repetitive head trauma. Monday was the first day of testimony in the Los Angeles Superior Court trial, which is expected to last a month.
Matthew Gee died in 2018 at age 49, allegedly from permanent brain damage caused by countless blows to the head he took while playing linebacker for the 1990 Rose Bowl-winning team. NCAA attorneys blame Gee’s death on alcohol and drug abuse as well as other health problems.
Kevin Lennon, the NCAA’s vice president of Div. 1 governance, said in his video deposition that concussion protocols have been mandated since 2010 and that the organization is aware of the risks of concussions in many sports. But he said the university doctors and health and safety officers are the best people to decide on the best concussion prevention and treatment.
“I think they’re doing a good job in that regard,” according to Lennon said, who also said the NCAA has a built-in principle of institutional control at the campus level.
Lennon also testified that he would not necessarily advise a 17-year- old thinking of playing college sports about the potential dangers of concussions without knowing the individual student’s background.
Also testifying on Monday was Randall Watson Dick, whose statements were read to the jury by one of the plaintiff’s attorneys. Dick worked for the NCAA from 1989-2008 in various positions, including assistant director of sports sciences.
Dick said guidelines the NCAA gave to universities regarding concussion protocols were recommendations but not mandates. Asked if he knew of any discipline occurring to school administrations whose members did not follow the guidelines, Dick replied, Not that I’m aware of.
Dick said he was himself a college football player and that he believed the school medical staffs were best able to make decisions on player safety.
Alana Gee sat in the front row of the gallery during the testimony on Monday. A date for her testimony has not been set.
The trial is expected to last a month.
A 2018 trial in Texas led to a swift settlement after several days of testimony by witnesses for the widow of Greg Ploetz, who played defense for the University of Texas in the late 1960s and died in 2015 at age 66.
In 2016, the NCAA agreed to settle a class action concussion lawsuit, paying $70 million to monitor former college athletes’ medical conditions, $5 million toward medical research and payments of up to $5,000 toward individual players claiming injuries.