ATLANTA - Four men have filed suit in federal court in Atlanta against Savannah State University and the Board of Regents alleging they were not offered football scholarships to the predominately black college because they are white.
Their suit that was filed Tuesday blames the regents for allowing the school to maintain racial segregation in admissions and hiring, noting that the percentage of non-black students has dropped from nearly 10 percent in 1999 to just 5 percent in 2008.
"Defendants' discrimination on the basis of race was for the purpose and had the effect of perpetuating segregation at SSU and excluded plaintiffs from participation in and denied plantifes the benefits of this federally funded educational program at SSU," states the suit.
The four say they were promised scholarships and had scheduled campus visits in January when the school fired football coach Robby Wells, who has his own reverse-discrimination suit pending against the school.
One of the four, Forrest Hill, is from Jonesboro, Ga.. The other three, Jacob Farmer, Andrew Cannon and Rico Arellano, are from out of state.
The suit claims that because Hill is from Georgia, it proves school officials were making excuses when they have said it didn't grant scholarships to the four because they weren't Georgia residents. Besides, black nonresidents have received football scholarships, according to the suit, which did not list any by name.
School officials have said Wells violated recruiting rules set by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
"Under NCAA regulations, a player that has been talked to by a coach is not a recruit until the paperwork goes back to the university and the athletic director's office," said SSU attorney Joe Steffen in a May interview.
He said Wells could not have properly promised the four scholarships because he had not processed their paperwork.
"This was sort of a pattern of problems with Robby in the sense that we had compliance issues for a long time," Steffen said.
The school has more than a month to file a formal response to the lawsuit.