It reads like something from the pages of one of Elmore Leonard's lesser novels. A father running in a park one May morning. He's approached by a stranger who gives him dire warnings about the safety of his son. The father's basically a good man, but he's made some mistakes in his past and worries that his son is being punished for his mistakes.
Only it's not from the pages of a Elmore Leonard novel. It instead comes from the pages of a lawsuit filed in state district court here in Harris County. The father is Michael Young, former star forward for the Phi Slama Jama-era Houston Cougars. The son is Joseph Young, the leading scorer for last season's Houston Cougars now on his on way to the University of Oregon. The mysterious stranger is unidentified. But the real bad guy is allegedly the University of Houston.
At least according to the lawsuit which reads more like the first, very rough draft of a mystery novel than it does a legitimate suit seeking damages for a presumed wrong.
In the suit, filed last Tuesday, Young seeks to have the court declare that the contract he signed with the University of Houston on May 30, 2013 was, according to the suit, "rescinded because of fraud in the inducement, misrepresentation, mistake, and illegality." This all resulting from Young being told he was being removed from the position of director of basketball operations and would report to the assistant athletic director Darren Dunn in a community relations position. Young further alleges that Dunn told Young the contract would be good as long as Joseph Young remained with the Cougars. Michael Young then signed the contract.
The elder Young soon began rethinking things, and according to the complaint, questioned the "propriety of the actions of the University of Houston in light of NCAA rules prohibiting indirect payments to players..." While on a morning jog, rethinking his options, he was approached by what the complaint calls "an unknown gentleman" who told him that a physical threat had been made against his son at the University of Houston.
On this basis, Young sent an e-mail to the University of Houston on May 31, 2013, attempting to rescind the contract which was to begin on June 1, 2013. His son soon after announced he was leaving the Cougars. He has since transferred to Oregon. And now Michael Young has sued the Cougars seeking to have a court say the contract has been rescinded because, as Young told the Houston Chronicle, the Cougars are still sending him checks, which he refuses to cash and which he has returned.
Nobody really knows what happened in this so-called meeting between Michael Young, athletic director Mack Rhoades, assistant athletic director Darren Dunn and head coach James Dickey except for the parties involved, and it's doubtful that it really went down entirely as described by Young. But there are smart people and dumb people and guilty people and innocent people, and somebody is going to get harmed, though it's not going to be Joseph Young, despite the assertions of the mysterious man on the jogging path.
It's difficult to fathom just what's going on. If this were a simple matter of Young attempting to rescind a contract, one would think that the claim would mention the fact that the contract didn't go into effect until June 1, so the 30-day advance written notice provision of the contract didn't apply. Thus Young sending an e-mail was all that was needed. Yet none of that is mentioned in a conspiracy-filled complaint that accuses the Cougars of fraud, possible NCAA violations and of course, the mysterious man on the jogging path.
But one also questions just what, exactly, it is UH is doing. If UH rescinds the contract and stops sending Michael Young checks, there is no basis for this lawsuit, not that there's much actual basis as it's now written. That doesn't solve the Joseph Young problem. It probably doesn't prevent the Youngs and Oregon from attempting some kind of end-around the rules that would get Joseph Young on the court this season while trashing UH. It doesn't prevent Michael Young from continuing to lash out. But it stops the lawsuit.
At some point the school will file a response to the lawsuit, and in that response the school will address Young's allegations. But with Young's allegations might come a visit from the NCAA checking to see if UH has committed any rules infractions, and with that, the odds are that Oregon and Joseph Young will file a waiver in an attempt to get Young cleared to play this season - if you paid attention last summer then you'll remember that this was the scenario that played out when Arsalan Kazemi left Rice for Oregon.
The University of Houston has refused to comment in detail on the issue thus far, saying it cannot comment on pending litigation but that it does look "forward to vigorously defending its actions." (The Press also attempted to contact Reginald E. McKamie, Sr., Young's attorney, but has yet to hear back from him as of the time of this posting.)
As it stands, it sounds as if UH officials merely wanted to demote Young from his position as director of basketball operations. It sounds as if they were afraid that his son would bolt if they did so. So they gave him a new job but let him keep his same salary. It appears that they misread how Michael Young would react, and it appears that Michael Young has implied evil intent to what could be innocent actions and has decided to go all in.
Elmore Leonard novels are full of smart people making stupid choices, and dumb people who think they're smart making stupid choices. There are famous people and powerful people and people living on the edges. His characters see where the path they've chosen is leading, and that it's the wrong path, but it's all too late to stop once things have started. Much as it appears has happened between Michael Young and the University of Houston.