Folks in Tennessee have been fuming about Lane Kiffin for months. After all, he took over the state’s flagship college football program in 2009, stayed for a year, and then jumped to USC as soon as the job came open.
More recently, Kiffin and USC has angered the state’s pro football team by hiring running backs coach Kennedy Pola, who was under contract with the Titans.
The Titans, as it turns out, are heeding the sage advice of Doug Llewellyn.
Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean reports that the Titans have sued Kiffin and the Trojans for “maliciously” interfering with Pola’s contract with the Titans. Pola also has been sued for breaching his contract.
Though college football coaches routinely regard contracts as meaningless documents that can be disregarded at will, the reality is that most — if not all — American jurisdictions recognize a claim for tortious interference with contractual relations, giving a team like the Titans the ability to sue another team like the Trojans that induces an employee to break an existing contract. (If another NFL team had taken Pola, the remedy would have arisen under the league’s tampering rules.)
The lawsuit does not specify an amount of financial damages, and the Titans apparently do not attempt to force Pola to remain employed by the Titans. In cases of this nature, damages would be determined by tabulating the actual losses incurred by the Titans in having to scramble to replace Pola. Punitive damages also could be available, but they would be limited by the actual damages, which could be minimal, frankly.
In most cases, football teams move on after an assistant coach is pilfered by another program. It doesn’t mean that teams don’t have the ability to pursue legal relief.
To the likely delight of everyone in Tennessee, the Titans have. Given that Titans coach Jeff Fisher played college football at USC, Kiffin and company likely concluded that Fisher would look the other way.
Meanwhile, Jeff Fisher has rocketed to the top of the Al Davis wish list.