COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- A former University of Missouri soccer player is suing the school and its women's soccer coach over what she calls an unmet promise of a full four-year scholarship.
Sophomore Ann Alexandra Charlebois, who goes by Alex, sued coach Brian Blitz and the university's governing board Dec. 5 in Boone County Circuit Court. The lawsuit alleges Charlebois agreed to attend Missouri only after Blitz vowed to provide more than $106,000 in support through 2015, with the player and her family needing to contribute only half of her college costs in her first year.
The aid package would have covered five years of attendance.
Charlebois received a 50 percent partial scholarship in 2010 as a freshman. After complaining about receiving a similar amount of financial aid this year, she was kicked off the team in September, said attorney Blake Marcus. The Columbia Daily Tribune first reported the lawsuit Wednesday.
Charlebois, recruited from the Canadian province of Ontario, now may not be able to afford to return to Missouri next semester, Marcus said. The player declined an interview request through her lawyer.
"The only reason she was able to be at Mizzou was because of the scholarship," he said. "Once she challenged the coach and the university about her scholarship, they told her she could not be on the team. It was solely in retaliation for raising these issues."
Reached on his cellphone Thursday, Blitz declined to comment. University officials did not immediately respond to an interview request but generally don't discuss pending lawsuits.
NCAA rules limit schools to one-year scholarship awards that can be renewed annually subject to a student-athlete's performance on the playing field and in the classroom.
Those terms are spelled out in the National Letter of Intent signed by Charlebois as a high school junior in 2008 and thousands of other recruits each year. But that doesn't keep coaches on the recruiting trail from making more grandiose promises -- as a Dec. 12, 2008 email from Blitz to Charlebois' father shows.
In the email, a copy of which was submitted with the lawsuit, Blitz outlines a five-year scholarship offer for Charlebois' "academic and athletic future." The chart shows the family paying $11,850 toward tuition, room and board in the first year, with Missouri paying the balance over the next four years "for a great college education." The electronic recruiting pitch makes no mention of the NCAA's one-year scholarship rules.
The NCAA Board of Directors recently approved a plan that would allow schools to award multi-year scholarships, though that proposal may face an override challenge from members, saidSusan Peal, director of the National Letter of Intent program. A board-approved plan to give athletes a $2,000 stipend to help cover living expenses not paid for by their scholarships has been suspended until January after 125 schools raised objections.
"High school recruits across the nation, who are typically only 16 and 17 years old, have been deciding which college to play for based on coaches' false verbal promises," said Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA linebacker who heads the National College Players Association, an athletes' advocacy group that lobbies the NCAA and lawmakers. "In this case, it appears that this coach made a promise in writing which makes for a strong legal case against the school.
Charlebois is seeking $106,500 from the university, plus punitive damages. The lawsuit says Missouri's assurances led her to turn down other scholarship offers