It’s All About the Benjamins: Ex-Kansas Head Coach’s Breach of Contract Suit

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David Beaty, former head coach of the Kansas University (KU) Jayhawks football team, has filed a breach of contract lawsuit against the university. KU hired Beaty in December 2012, where he initially  received an annual salary of $800,000 on a five-year contract. Following the 2016 season, Beaty received a two-year extension with a $1.8 million annual salary. The contract stipulated a payout, worth approximately $3 million, if KU terminated Beaty without cause.

Notably, the payout was not linked to Beaty’s salary. In 2018, KU hired a new athletic director, Jeff Long, who subsequently fired Beaty after the Jayhawks lost a home game, bringing Beaty’s coaching record to 6-39. Beaty finished out the season with a head coaching record of 6-42.

On March 12, 2019, Beaty filed suit against KU (through Kansas Athletics, Inc.) alleging, inter alia, breach of contract. The complaint, filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, alleged that Long, “promised Coach Beaty that, because [Beaty] was being terminated without cause, Kansas Athletics would honor his Employment Agreement . . . and pay the $3 million . . . it owed him without cause.” To date, Beaty has not received any form of payment toward the $3 million that he alleged he is owed.

The relevant language of the contract states that, “[in] the event that Head Coach’s employment is terminated without cause . . . [Beaty] shall be entitled to a payment . . . in the total amount of $2,580,000.00 payable in six equal installments commencing on the last day of the month immediately following the month in which the termination date occurs.” Long publicly reiterated “that Beaty was not fired for cause.”

However, Beaty alleged KU privately devised a plan to find dirt on him in order to say they fired him for cause. KU, along with the NCAA, is investigating alleged violations that occurred during Beaty’s tenure. Due to the investigation, KU has withheld the money. In addition, KU alleged that Beaty has been uncooperative with the NCAA investigation.

Beaty, however, says he sat for an interview with the NCAA on February 27, 2019. During the December 4, 2019 telephonic court conference, Beaty alleged that KU’s handling of his termination “is different than its apparent handling of any other coach in KU history.” Beaty filed a motion to compel discovery of documents related to the termination of former coaches because, as Beaty alleged in his subsequent motion to compel, “[it] does not appear that [KU] has ever terminated a coach for cause … nor suspended pay based on alleged NCAA rules violations.”

Additional details are likely to be released as this case moves through the discovery phase. This is a unique breach of contract dispute that we will continue to monitor.

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