Former USC assistant alleges violations in suit

Officials at USC are looking into allegations that defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast helped pay undergraduate students to fraudulently fulfill the academic requirements of two of the football program's graduate assistants.

Former staff member Rick Courtright filed a lawsuit Monday in Los Angeles claiming that he was forced to resign from his position with the team after he reported the scheme and other potential NCAA violations to USC's compliance office.

Courtright, who worked for the Trojans as a quality control assistant from 2016 through 2018, says he was harassed during his final months with the team and is asking for $2 million in damages for mental and physical harm.

An athletic department spokesman provided a statement from the university Monday afternoon that said: "USC is investigating the allegations in the lawsuit. The university strives to ensure compliance with NCAA rules."

Courtright says in his lawsuit that he heard graduate assistants Brett Arce and Austin Clark discussing Pendergast's role in paying a pair of students to take online courses for Arce and Clark. NCAA rules require graduate assistants to be enrolled in academic courses while working with athletes. The suit also says Courtright witnessed Pendergast giving money to Clark, who used the cash to pay the students.

Courtright's lawsuit says he reported the allegations along with other potential NCAA violations -- graduate assistants allegedly used school courtesy cars for personal reasons and drove assistant coaches to recruiting trips -- in June 2017.

The complaint says Courtright was harassed by unnamed co-workers after he voiced his concerns. It says Courtright found obscene notes stuck to his desk, had clothing stolen from his locker and someone glued his computer mouse to the desk table, among other incidents.

Courtright resigned in May 2018. His lawsuit says head coach Clay Helton told him a month earlier that he could either resign or be fired.

Clark is now the defensive line coach at Illinois. Arce remains on USC's staff as a defensive quality control analyst.