PHOENIX — A group of students is suing the Maricopa County Community College District after it eliminated the football program from its schools.

The lawsuit alleges that canceling the football program amounts to racial discrimination because the majority those affected are minority students.

“Growing up, I didn’t have much, but I had football. That’s kind of the only thing that helped me stay in school, and want to do good in school,” Jerone Davison, a player for Mesa Community College.

Community college was a step to something bigger—Division I football, maybe the NFL.

“So taking this away from me—it’s going to be hard because I don’t know what I’m going to do after this year. I haven’t talked to any schools, no schools have talked to me,” said Darius Glover, who also played for MCC.  

But to some players, it’s way more than money.

“My dad’s in jail. I don’t want to go to jail and…it keeps me in school and keeps my head in a good place and keeps me in the right mindset,” said MCC player Stevie Maddox.

“My brother’s in prison and I don’t want to go that route,” said Andre Adams.

Adams played one year at Phoenix College and planned to go to Howard in two years.

Then, last year, the Maricopa County Community College District decided to cut all junior college football programs, saying they couldn’t afford them.

“We were just in the room, we had a team meeting and they just told us they’re cutting the program,” Adams said.

Now, Adams says he’s worried he’ll follow his brother to prison.

“He played football too. He was a good athlete too, but, you know, he kept getting in trouble and—like he’s my older brother—usually his life planned out how mine was going,” Adams said.

Attorney Phil Austin said there is a disproportionate impact on African-American students.

“African-American students are 10 times more likely to be negatively affected than non-African-American students. This kind of disparity cannot stand and is illegal,” Austin said.

Maricopa Community Colleges issued a statement saying in part:

“We understand the disappointment of these young men with our decision to eliminate our football programs. We have great respect for the nearly 350 student athletes impacted by this decision, including these eleven. We believe our decision in this matter was necessary and in the best interest of our students and system.”