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Hours after the college football season kicked off last weekend, former Penn State team physician Dr. Scott Lynch kicked off litigation with the school and head football coach James Franklin. Lynch, who was relieved of his duties in February, claims he was removed from two positions he held on the athletic department's medical staff "as a result of [his] good faith reporting of Franklin's attempts to influence and interfere with [his] medical management and return-to-play decisions related to student-athletes."
Franklin's former players have come to his defense. But will it matter in court?
Lynch served as the Nittany Lions team physician and director of athletic medicine from August 2014 until March of this year, when he was released, ostensibly, for practicing about 100 miles from Penn State's State College campus in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Lynch claims that's a "false narrative" in a wrongful termination suit filed against the school, Franklin, athletic director Sandy Barbour, Penn State Health, and Kevin Black, MD, the interim dean of the university's college of medicine.
Specifically, Lynch alleges that Franklin "created a culture and climate which, at a minimum, obstructed full compliance with the aforementioned standards and rules implemented to safeguard the medical management of student athletes," and that "on multiple and repeated occasions, defendant James Franklin attempted to interfere with the plaintiff’s autonomous authority to determine medical management and return-to-play decisions related to student-athletes." His suit is seeking over $50,000 in damages, also claiming that the school violated his rights under the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law.
Penn State, in a statement issued to USA TODAY Sports, disputes Lynch's claims:
"In February 2019, Penn State Health administrators decided to change leadership for athletic medicine and the delivery of care for Intercollegiate Athletics ... This transition was completed with the best interests of student-athletes in mind, given the increasing complexity and growing demands of sports medicine, as well as health care in general. While we reject Dr. Lynch's claims and will vigorously defend our program and its representatives, we remain grateful to him for his five years as director of athletic medicine for Intercollegiate Athletics and for his continued association with Penn State Health."
Former players, including running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley defended Franklin and his decisions regarding injuries. "Again, Coach Franklin and the staff were telling me not to push it," posted on Twitter regarding an injury during the 2018 Citrus Bowl. "It even got to the point where they told me I would not be going back in, in order to protect my future ... I am eternally grateful for Coach Franklin and his staff for my time at Penn State."
Penn State just began their football season this Saturday, but the legal battle has already begun.
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