A former Penn State football player says he was the victim of violent hazing during his time with the program, and head coach James Franklin is accused of ignoring the acts and worse.
Matt Miller of PennLive.com obtained a copy of a federal lawsuit that was filed in U.S. Middle District Court on Tuesday by former Penn State defensive back Isaiah Humphries. Humphries names the university, Franklin and former teammate Damion Barber as defendants in the case, and he alleges that he was violently hazed by Nittany Lions players and threatened before transferring to the University of California in 2018. The suit accuses Penn State players Micah Parsons, Yetur Gross-Matos and Jesse Luketa of physically abusing Humphries, who says Luketa also threatened to have him killed for complaining about the hazing.
Humphries says his former teammates told underclassmen they were “their bitch because this is a prison” and threatened to sexually assault him. He claims he and other Penn State players were wrestled and shoved to the ground by the elder players, who then did things like shoving their genitals in the victims’ faces and between their buttocks.
The abusers are also accused of telling victims “I’m going to Sandusky you,” which is a reference to former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky molesting young boys on Penn State's campus. Sandusky is currently in prison.
Humphries says he and his father, former Penn State and NFL player Leonard Humphries, reported the alleged hazing but were ignored. The younger Humphries says Penn State’s coaches forced him to perform drills they knew he would fail in response to him complaining about the hazing. He also says Franklin and the coaching staff then bad-mouthed him to other football programs when he informed them he was considering transferring.
Humphries thanked Penn State’s coaching staff for allowing him to leave in a statement he released in November 2018, saying he decided to transfer “in order to grow and not lose the passion that I have for football and for everything that I value.”
Humphries is seeking unspecified damages for the harm he says the hazing and the way it was handled caused to his football career and his health.
This is not the first time Franklin has found himself at the center of a controversy, as he allegedly contacted a rape victim in 2014 and made some troubling remarks to her when four of his Vanderbilt players were facing rape charges.
Penn State officials have not yet commented on the lawsuit.