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Lawsuit claims Penn State ignored complaints of football hazing

James Franklin

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Nine years after the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal threatened to permanently uproot their football program, Penn State is again defending itself about another humiliation.

A former player, Isaiah Humphries, filed a federal lawsuit on Monday against the university, former teammate Damion Barber and head coach James Franklin.

And its all about abuse and hazing.

Humphries claims he was subjected to physical and emotional harm by Barber and three other football players and that Franklin knew it was going on and did nothing to prevent or stop it.

Frankly, the details of the suit are disgusting. And if its true, if the coaching staff knew these things were happening and ignored it, Franklin should be swept out of State College.

According to the suit, upperclassmen regularly restrained and wrestled younger players to the floor before engaging in simulated sex acts, including the placement of genitals on the face of the victims. At other times, perpetrators are accused of placing their genitalia on buttocks of those being assaulted and then stroking themselves.

The alleged hazing included taunting of the underclassmen by telling them the goal was to make them “their b—- because this is a prison.”

They also threatened the victims by saying “I am going to Sandusky you,” a clear reference to the former Penn State assistant now jailed for sexually abusing children.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the school said it was conducting its own investigation.

“The university has established processes in place for responding to claims of potential misconduct. In accordance with our processes, the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response and the Office of Student Conduct carried out investigations of the plaintiff’s claims independent from Intercollegiate Athletics,” the school said. “In addition, Penn State police investigated related allegations and forwarded the results of that investigation to the Office of the Centre County District Attorney. The DA reviewed the case and decided that no charges would be pursued.”

Jesse Luketa

(Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)

Humphries’ lawyer, Steven Marino, claims his client was not the only one victimized. Marino also said Leonard Humphries – Isaiah’s father – informed the Penn State coaching staff about the hazing and was upset about its inaction.

“This is a family with a football pedigree,” Marino told ESPN. “The father knows the coaches and told them what was happening to his son as it was reported to him by his son. No affirmative action was taken to protect this student-athlete at that time.”

What’s worse, the suit also alleges the coaches saw what was going on in the Lasch Football Building and decided to ignore it. Isaiah Humphries goes on to say his performance was also unfairly judged by the coaching staff. It all led to his eventual transfer to the University of California, for whom he will play after sitting out the 2019 season in accordance with NCAA rules.

Along with Barber, Penn State players Micah Parsons, Jesse Luketa and Yetur Gross-Matos are also mentioned as those who coordinated and helped execute the alleged attacks.

“The coaches knew about it and didn’t protect this child, especially in this environment that we have at Penn State against hazing,” Marino told The Athletic. “It’s unforgivable. And it didn’t only happen to this boy. It happened to many other boys. This is not an isolated incident.

“The poor kid wants to be vindicated. He was bullied. He was harassed. He was abused. He was not properly protected. His whole college career was disrupted and he had to transfer schools.”

The suit also claims Luketa repeatedly threatened Humphries physically, including telling Humphries if he ever visited his city in Canada – where Luketa is from – he’d have him shot.

There is reason to believe Barber might be implicated. He was accused after a preliminary university investigation into the incident of having committed prohibitive behavior and that he would eventually be sanctioned.

Barber was dressed but did not play in Penn State’s opener against Idaho. Listed as second-string, he was passed over in the game by a third-stringer. The university would not elaborate as to why Barber did not play.

Gross-Matos was also sent home over the summer for a violation of team rules. At that point, Franklin would not say why.

You would think by now Penn State would have adequate safeguards in place to prevent things like this from ever happening again.