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Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Ohio State should be pleased with O'Brien's $2.2 million jury award

Last February, Michael discussed the ruling of Judge Joseph T. Clark of the Ohio Court of Claims in which Judge Clark determined that former Ohio State basketball coach Jim O'Brien broke his contract by giving $6,000 to a recruit and failing to inform university officials, but that the error was not serious enough to warrant firing. Judge Clark ruled that the university violated the contract by firing him without compensation. Today a jury awarded O'Brien $2.2 million in damages.

In the comments to Michael's post last February, I took exception with Michael's opinion that O'Brien's conduct constituted a materially breach of his employment contract. I also opined that O'Brien's conduct did not give Ohio State the right to terminate O'Brien for cause under the express provisions of the employment contract.

While it may seem like a large award, Ohio State should be pleased with the jury's award today. The article linked to this post states that O'Brien asked the jury for reimbursement of his annual salary of $236,552, plus damages of $3.3 million. His contract specified that he was due 3½ times his base salary for the length of the time remaining on the agreement, and he still had more than five years left on the contract. That means that, under the express terms of the contract, he is actually due more than $4 million.


A pdf file of the court's order can be found at

Blogger Geoffrey Rapp -- 8/02/2006 8:21 PM  


Thanks for the link to the court's order. Interesting reading. Liquidated damage provisions in college coaches contracts is a hugely negotiated issue these days. The court's order demonstrates that these provisions are going to be strictly enforced without any offset for coaches' breaches.

Mitigation is always an issue to think about with respect to liquidated damage provisions. If O'Brien gets hired over the next year, I wonder if the court would require him to give back to Ohio State the portion of the award that overlaps with the term under the new contract he signs. Interestingly, some college coaches contracts expressly provide that the liquidated damages will not be reduced by such mitigation efforts (so in essence the coach ends up getting paid by 2 institutions).

Blogger Rick Karcher -- 8/02/2006 9:35 PM  

Once interest and attorneys' fees are calculated, I expect the damages to be close to (if not exceed) $4 million.

Anonymous john -- 8/03/2006 3:09 PM  

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