University of Miami football player is suing the...


April 26, 1994

A FORMER University of Miami football player is suing the school for $10 million because he rode the bench.

Bryan Fortay claims that Coach Dennis Erickson promised him that he would eventually become the Hurricane's starting quarterback. Fortay never did. He now is suing on the grounds that denying him the starting position prevented him from earning millions as a pro draft pick.

He claims he was unfairly overlooked by the Hurricane coaching staff. Almost no one agrees with him. Coach Erickson chose Gino Torretta, who during his two years as the starting quarterback led Miami to a national championship and won the Heisman Trophy.

Mr. Fortay transferred to Rutgers, and played there for two seasons. He only started three games last year. He is not expected to be picked in the NFL draft.

If Mr. Fortay wins his case it will set a strange precedent. He is assuming that if he had he been the starting Miami quarterback, he would have played well, impressed the pro-scouts and become a first-round draft pick. Think of the implications if he is successful. Will angry parents of Little Leaguers sue their child's coach because he promised more playing time? The settlements could be based on the average professional player's salary because the coach stunted the 10-year-old's athletic growth. Where would this end?

Will a decision for Fortay open the possibility for other athletes to look back over their careers and sue their coaches for lack of playing time? Students cut from college teams could sue anyone who ever promised to make them a star. In such cases, we hope the settlement would involve the cost of tuition to compensate for lost scholarships. But that's not the way the sue-happy legal system works in this country. Plaintiffs will ask for millions in damages.

Our only question: Where does a player's ability fit in? Perhaps judges and juries will decide in the future who the Hurricanes' starting quarterback should be.

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