Coaches who get fired with years remaining on guaranteed contracts have two options: Don’t work and get paid 100 cents on the dollar by the former employer or take a job and see the amount owed from the former employer reduced by the money earned at a new job.
Basically, the coach who takes another job usually will end up working for free, unless he somehow makes more money in his new job.
If the coach takes a new job, there’s a temptation by the coach and the new employer to pay the coach peanuts, in order to maximize the financial obligation of the former employer. Michael McCann of Sportico.com explains that a subplot along those lines has emerged in litigation between former Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and the Razorback Foundation, and that the New England Patriots currently are caught in the crossfire.
The lawyer representing the Razorback Foundation has suggested in a letter to the presiding judge that Bielema and agent Neil Cornrich hatched a “scheme” that would “place Bielema in a low-paying position with the Patriots while he was still receiving payments from the Foundation.” The Patriots strongly dispute this interpretation of 458 pages of documents produced by the team regarding the hiring and employment of Bielema.
“The Patriots, paid Mr. Bielema a fair and reasonable sum for this work and undoubtedly could have offered him substantially less for the work he performed,” Patriots lawyer Brandon Bigelow wrote in response to the Razorback Foundation’s lawyer.
Per McCann, the Razorback Foundation has implied that the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick could be added to the litigation regarding Bielema’s buyout. Such a tactic would make it difficult, frankly, for Arkansas to hire top-level coaches in the future and for former Arkansas coaches to find employment elsewhere after being fired.
Even without actually suing the Patriots or Belichick, any effort to whittle away at the sunk costs from a failed former coach will make a prospective coach reluctant about landing in that very same spot. The whole thing makes the Razorback Foundation look cheap, petty, and vindictive.
Bigelow made that same point, in more artful language.
“It is obvious that what the Foundation is really doing is seeking improper leverage in a simple breach of contract dispute with a former coach,” Bigelow wrote to Foundation’s lawyer. “As this matter proceeds, you also should consider how it might appear to others for the Foundation to be asserting frivolous claims against and harassing a professional football team for simply providing an opportunity to a fired college football coach.”
The case between Bielema and the Razorback Foundation currently is scheduled to go to trial on June 1.