Firefighter refuses to give up after ALS diagnosis

Jessica and Matt Onyshko pose with their daughters, Kendall, left, and McKenna, in this 2013 photo.

An officer of the National Collegiate Athletic Association testified Wednesday in Washington County Court that the staff or employees of the organization have no vote in legislating changes within the sports governing body.

Terri Gronau of Carmel, Ind., vice president of NCAA Division II, was called as a defense witness in the civil suit against the college sports governing body, and she described a process by which representatives of member schools make or change rules at an annual convention hosted by the Indianapolis-based organization that takes place each January.

Conferences or the president’s council can also sponsor legislation, she said.

“If a majority of schools are in favor of legislation, it passes,” she testified when questioned by NCAA attorney Laurence S. Shtasel.

Former California University of Pennsylvania football player Matthew Onyshko and his wife, Jessica, who are Pittsburgh residents, sued the NCAA five years ago after he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Onyshko’s attorneys contend the NCAA failed to warn him that college football could seriously affect his health. Onyshko, 38, who was a member of the Vulcans football team from 1999 to 2003, now uses a motorized wheelchair and speaks with the aid of a computerized communication device he controls by eye movement.

The NCAA Division I and II schools offer scholarships to athletes, but Division III does not. At Cal U., which is part of Division II, Onyshko passed up a chance to play baseball but chose football as a walk-on after playing on the gridiron in high school.

Onyshko attorney Eugene Egdorf, in cross-examination, asked about emergency legislation within the NCAA “that didn’t go through the normal legislative process” and showed the jury a page from the organization’s website that displayed the term “well-being” in large letters.

A former volleyball player at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Gronau has never visited Cal U.

Egdorf also displayed a tweet from Gronau’s account from June 2014 of a photo and the message, “Celebrating with the NCAADII commissioners association, service and leadership to student athletes.”

“You agree part of your job is to provide service and leadership to athletes?” he asked, which Gronau affirmed.

The 12 jurors and four alternates have been hearing testimony since May 1. Presiding at the trial is Judge Michael Lucas.

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