BATTLE over Heisman Trophy may move to federal court

Saturday, July 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TEXARKANA, Texas (AP) _ A legal battle is heating up to determine the rightful owner of Texas native Billy Sims' 1978 Heisman Trophy.

Scott Goodman of Palm Beach, Fla. and Crown Leasing each claim ownership of the trophy, which they say they bought from Sims, who won the Heisman who played for the Oklahoma Sooners during the 1970s.

Lawyers for Crown Leasing sued Sims, a Hooks, Texas native, and Goodman in Florida seeking an injunction on Dec. 4., to keep Goodman from selling the trophy in a telephone auction.

In the past, Heisman trophies have garnered $184,000 to $328,110.

After a judge in Palm Beach, Fla. rejected the request on Dec. 5, Crown Leasing filed a lawsuit in Bowie County on Dec. 7.

But on July 2, the same day a hearing had been scheduled, Goodman, a sports memorabilia dealer, moved the lawsuit filed against him from Bowie County to a federal district court in Texarkana.

Now Crown Leasing and its executive Bob White want the lawsuit back in state court. They're asking U.S. District Judge David Folsom to send it 25 miles west to the New Boston courthouse.

Stephen T. Arnold, who represents Crown Leasing, argued in court papers that there is no federal jurisdiction in the matter.

According to court filings, Crown Leasing, in a document signed by White and Sims, paid Sims $50,000 on April 28, 1995, for the Heisman, a Walter Camp Trophy, Detroit Quarterback Club trophy, Seagrams 7 Trophy, University of Oklahoma helmet and Orange Bowl Hall of Fame trophy.

``There are reasons to believe that Mr. Goodman knew that the trophy was not free and clear at the time he acquired the trophy from Mr. Sims,'' Arnold said.

But Goodman's attorney, Errol Friedman of Texarkana, said otherwise.

``My client didn't know about any deal that they have. He spent good money and bought the Heisman trophy. What he does with it is his business,'' Friedman told the Texarkana Gazette in Thursday's online editions. ``I know he's gotten money for the Heisman trophy from two sources.''

Both sides say the other side gave Sims a loan in exchange for the trophy.

Sims, who was served with court papers on Tuesday, has not yet responded to the lawsuit.

In 1978, Sims was the nation's leading rusher with 1,762 yards. Following his college football career at OU, Sims played for the NFL's Detroit Lions as a running back. He was rookie of the year in 1980. His football career ended five years later with a damaged knee.