T.P. Moore’s memories of basketball at Cal State at Los Angeles comprise something less than an idyll of intercollegiate sportsmanship. As a freshman, he says, he played basketball under a different name for every road game—and when he asked why, the coach would say only, “I have my reasons.” Moore says he also asked why he’d been admitted in 1971 without ever taking the college boards. “Don’t worry about it,” he remembers the coach saying, “you did very well on those exams.”
Although Moore wanted to be a photographer or a disc jockey, he says the coach—on whom Moore depended for some $2,000 in financial aid each year—wanted him to take courses like archery, basket weaving, backpacking and badminton. So he did, after a fashion. “The coach said I didn’t have to show up for classes,” Moore recalls. “Most of the guys just stayed home in bed.” His grades were good.
But then the college began demanding repayment of loans that he and others had thought were scholarships. At that, Moore and six other athletes, none of whom had graduated, filed a $14 million suit against CSULA for allegedly luring them from the ghetto of Watts with the promise of scholarships and then depriving them of a college education.
Moore now contends that someone was paid $400 to take his college boards, that his aliases were probably meant to hide his ineligibility as a late-entering freshman. Co-plaintiff Randy Echols remembers “passing 12 units of physical education, and all that time I was in Georgia.” Some former teammates, says Echols, “still have trouble reading the freeway signs.” Moore, 26, now places traffic signs for the city of L.A. Echols, 25, is a youth counselor for the Salvation Army.
Cal State officials decline to comment, pending their response in court, but the players’ lawyer, Michele Washington, feels no compunction. “These men are typical of what’s happening to a lot of young black athletes,” she says. “We will do everything we can to prevent this from happening again.”