A Newton businessman who graduated from Texas A&M University in 1980 has been granted class action status in a lawsuit against the 12th Man Foundation. He’ll be representing hundreds of Aggies who have held season football tickets and parking spaces at Kyle Field and assert that they have been wronged by the foundation. Meanwhile, a Jasper attorney will part of a team of three law firms which have filed the case.
The lead plaintiff, Nathan Hines, is represented locally by Blair Bisbey of the Seale, Stover, and Bisbey Law Firm of Jasper. The team also consists of Bill Cobb of Cobb & Counsel in Austin, and Scott McQuarrie of the McQuarrie Law Office in Houston.
Bisbey announced on Friday that Hines and the other plaintiffs were granted class action status by the State District Court in Newton County, where the suit was filed.
According to Bisbey, at issue is the 12th Man Foundation’s handling of former students, such as Hines, who enjoyed “Permanently Endowed Donors” status.
Bisbey explained that the foundation created a program during the 1970’s when neither Texas A&M football, nor the 12th Man Foundation, was as successful - or profitable – as it is now. Bisbey said “To encourage loyal Ags to open their wallets wide, the struggling 12th Man Foundation promised ‘Permanently Endowed Donors’ the best available seating and parking for life or for 30-years. Over three decades, several hundred loyal Ags, relying on the Foundation’s promises, stepped up to the plate to fund its Permanently Endowed Scholarship Program.”
However, things changed.
In 2012 Texas A&M left the Big 12 Conference, which was a shell of the old Southwest Conference, and joined the highly successful and competitive Southeastern Conference. In the years that followed A&M football was ranked as high as fifth in the nation, and Kyle Field was completely renovated to become the fourth largest football stadium in the country, and filled to the brim for almost every home game.
As the money rolled in, Hines says that he and other former students were cast aside.
Bisbey quoted the Aggie Code of Honor, “An Aggie does not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do”. However Bisbey says the 12th Man Foundation isn’t living up to that creed. “The Foundation reneged on the promises made to Endowment Owners. It did so by reselling their coveted parking locations and, later, their ‘lifetime seat locations’ that Foundation documents show they had been promised, to the ‘next generation’ of big donors in order to fund Kyle Field renovations. By 2017, the Foundation had amassed an endowment of $77 million and net assets of $266 million, partly by breaking its promises to the Endowment Owners”, said Bisbey.
Bisbey went on to say that a trial date has not yet been set, and also that he fully expects counsel representing the 12th Man Foundation to file an appeal against the class action status.
The following is the full statement by attorney Blair Bisbey on behalf of lead plaintiff Nathan Hines:
Statement on Order Granting Class Certification
In Nathan Hines v. Texas A&M University 12th Man Foundation, et al.
Today Aggie football is enjoying great success. Kyle Field is packed and The 12th Man Foundation can sell tickets at premium prices. But it was a different story in the 1970s, 80s and 1990s. Then, attendance wasn’t consistent, and financial support was limited. To encourage loyal Ags to open their wallets wide, the struggling 12th Man Foundation promised “Permanently Endowed Donors” the best available seating and parking for life or for 30-years. Over three decades, several hundred loyal Ags, relying on the Foundation’s promises, stepped up to the plate to fund its “Permanently Endowed Scholarship Program.
The Foundation kept its promises while convenient, but as Aggie football became more successful and renovations to Kyle Field were planned, the Foundation saw “an opportunity to earn more revenue” that would serve as the “financial engine that will differentiate [A&M] from [its] competition.”
Although “an Aggie does not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those who do,” the Foundation reneged on the promises made to Endowment Owners. It did so by reselling their coveted parking locations and, later, their “lifetime seat locations” that Foundation documents show they had been promised, to the “next generation” of big donors in order to fund Kyle Field renovations. By 2017, the Foundation had amassed an endowment of $77 million and net assets of $266 million, partly by breaking its promises to the Endowment Owners.
Shocked and disappointed, Nathan Hines ’80, asked the Foundation to rethink its position—merely to keep its promises—and to redress their grievances without the need to file suit. But the Foundation had no interest in resolving this matter outside of court.
Left with no other option, Mr. Hines filed suit against the Foundation asking the District Court in Newton County, Texas to hold the Foundation to its word. But Mr. Hines wasn’t seeking justice solely for himself. Instead, he asked to represent a Class of all the Endowment Owners harmed by the Foundation’s broken promises.
Today, the District Court granted Nathan Hines’ request to represent a Class of all Endowment Owners. Hines will thus represent hundreds of aggrieved Aggies, asserting claims against the Foundation for breach of their Endowment Agreements.
The trial date for the Class claims against the Foundation has not yet been set. And the Foundation is expected to appeal. Mr. Hines retains hope, however, that the Foundation will heed the Aggie Code of Honor, acknowledge and correct its mistake, and voluntarily do right by the Endowment Owners.