Law & Policy: Contract Law
- Louisville Suing Pitino for Damage to Reputation
by Paul Steinbach December 2017
Two weeks after former men's basketball coach Rick Pitino sued the University of Louisville for breach of contract, the university is pursuing a counter suit, claiming Pitino's "wrongful conduct" as coach has damaged Louisville's reputation.
According to SI.com, the lawsuit argues that Pitino, not the university, is financially responsible for the multiple scandals that have plagued the program during his 16 years at its helm. Pitino was fired Oct. 16 after an FBI probe uncovered widespread corruption in college basketball. Over the years, Pitino has been accused of being aware of or encouraging recruiting tactics that included funneling money to the families of prospective recruits and enticing prospects with prostitutes. The latter scenario ultimately forced Louisville to vacate all victories between 2012 and 2015, including the 2013 national championship, and return all related earnings.
The university claims Pitino is responsible for that money, as well as ticket sales and enrollment revnue Louisville has lost due to its tarnished reputation. In addition, Louisville seeks payback on all bonuses and other compensation "wrongly paid" to Pitino during this period.
By counter-suing, Louisville is seeking to not only thwart Pitino's efforts to sue the school for the near $37 million remaining on his contract, but actually have Pitino compensate the university. The total damages amount sought by Louisville is unclear as of this writing.
- Axed Basketball Coach Claims Wrongful Termination
by Jodie Wagner December 2017
Ousted Boca Raton boys basketball coach Max Spinner has filed a lawsuit against the Palm Beach County School District and the school's athletic director and principal. In the lawsuit, Spinner claims he was wrongfully terminated as the Bobcats' head coach earlier this month, and wants his name cleared and his job back.
- Norvell's New Memphis Contract Will Benefit Staff, Too
by Mark Giannotto December 2017
The Memphis football team spent nearly $2 million on assistant coaches' salaries during the 2017 season, and that figure probably will rise after coach Mike Norvell agreed to a new contract extension with the university on Tuesday.
- Schiano Deal Worth $27M, But Lacked Signatures
by Blake Toppmeyer December 2017
The memorandum of understanding that former Tennessee athletic director John Currie and Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano signed Nov. 26 lacked a key signature required to make the document binding.
- Goodell Inks Five-Year Extension
by Richmond Times Dispatch December 2017
Roger Goodell has signed a five-year contract extension to remain NFL commissioner, NFL.com and ESPN reported Wednesday, citing a memo sent to team owners from the league's compensation committee.
- Pitino Suing Louisville for $35M over Termination
by Paul Steinbach December 2017
Former University of Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino is suing the school's athletic department for the more than $35 million in compensation that remained on his contract.
Louisville fired Pitino in October after it was determined he had knowledge of and supported a system whereby the university's sponsor shoe company Adidas was paying recruits to sign with the Cardinals. By claiming it had "just cause" for the termination, Louisville relieved itself of honoring the remainder of Pitino's contract. On Thursday, Pitino filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit in U.S. District Court, claiming the University of Louisville Athletic Associaton did not have a case for the "just cause" firing. It also claims that Louisville did not properly inform Pitino that he had been placed on administrative leave, which his lawyers claim was tantamount to termination.
According to Louisville Courier Journal, Pitino seeks $4.3 million per year, the value of his contract, from the date of the school's last payment through his contract's end in June 2026, or the value of his actual losses, which includes his personal Adidas contract. Adidas terminated its personal services contract with Pitino after he was fired.
Three causes were cited for the firing. One, the university asserted that Pitino was involved in or had knowledge of the illegal recruiting tactics. Secondly, Pitino failed to alert the athletic department to the presence on campus of Christian Dawkins, a rogue agent. And third, Pitino failed to exercise control over his program in the wake of allegations that escorts had been purchased to entice recruits, the university claimed.
Pitino's legal team counters that the former coach never admitted to wrongdoing, even when wiretapped, and that he had insufficient knowledge of Dawkins to warrant reporting his presence to the athletic department.
According to Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann, Pitino's lawsuit faces long odds of succeeding. "This is mainly because Pitino’s contract contains expansive and vague language for the university to construct a valid rationale for firing with just cause," McCann writes. "For instance, he would have violated his contract by failing to: diligently supervise compliance of his assistant coaches; promote an atmosphere of compliance; or avoid disparaging media publicity. In order to conclude that Pitino did not violate his contract, one would likely have to believe that Pitino was unaware and uninvolved in any of the corruption that was both around him and that appeared to benefit him."
- Jurich Reviews Could Derail Case for Firing
by Andy Berg November 2017
The University of Louisville could have a tough time justifying its firing of athletic director Tom Jurich in light of glowing reviews that highlight his tenure at the school.
- NFL Plans to Extend Contract Despite Threatened Suit
by The Roanoke Times November 2017
The NFL expects a five-year contract extension with Commissioner Roger Goodell to be finalized soon, despite a threatened lawsuit by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
- 24 Hour Fitness to Refund Membership Renewal Fees
by Courtney Cameron November 2017
24 Hour Fitness has agreed to pay $1.3 million to members who allege that they were misled about increasing membership fees, according to CBS Los Angeles.
- Coach Fired Over Treatment of Athletes: 'Totally Untrue'
by Paul Steinbach November 2017
University of Louisiana-Lafayette softball coach Michael Lotief was fired Wednesday for subjecting student-athletes and coworkers to "violent, vulgar language and verbal and physical assault, creating a hostile learning and working environment."
Lotief, who amassed a 729-174 career coaching record while leading the Cajuns to five straight NCAA Super Regionals between 2012 and 2016 and three Women's College World Series appearances (2003, 2008, 2014), denies the allegations, claiming his 30-plus-year battle with throat cancer and resulting tracheotomy precluded him from such behavior. "Having a trach and not being able to breathe and a tube in my stomach, pretty much prevents me from physical confrontations," he said, according to ESPN.com.
Lotief's attorneys allege that the coach's termination has more to do with his advocacy for gender equality in athletics at Louisiana-Lafayette. "This matter arose out of a passionate discussion between Coach Lotief and several other persons within the university's athletic department wherein he complained of gender equality issues adversely affecting UL's female athletes, specifically the softball team," said attorney Glenn Edwards. "In response to a complaint of at least one participant in that conversation, Coach Lotief was immediately placed on administrative leave even though the written statements obtained about the conversation present completely divergent descriptions of what occurred."
Lotief had been on administrative leave since Oct. 6. He addressed his termination Wednesday with several team members in support behind him. "It's surreal, how unfactual it's been. It's totally untrue," said Lotief, whose assistant coach and video coordinator were also fired to — as a university statement put it — "allow the new coach to assemble their team." After the news conference, student-athletes discovered that they had been locked out of the team's facilities.
The team went 47-8 last season, winning Lafayette's 12th Sun Belt Conference title under Lotief.
"The allegation is that I poked someone in the shoulder, which seems like a very liberal interpretation of physical assault," said Lotief, who called accusations of verbal confrontation "a stretch. I'd even go so far as to say it's a lie."
Lotief and his attorneys said it was too soon to comment on future pursuit of legal remedies.