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Thursday, April 17, 2008
Breaching Contracts: It's Just Part of the College Coaching Biz

One week ago, Travis Ford signed a contract extension to remain at UMass for the next seven years and said, "I am excited to know that UMass is committed to building the men's basketball program back to one of the best in the East and that I will have the chance to be at the helm for many years to come." Today, one week later, Ford breached that contract and signed with Oklahoma State. UMass athletic director John McCutcheon's reaction: "It's part of the business we're in. That's just something we have to deal with is professionalism. When you have an individual as talented as coach Ford was, that represents an institution like he did, you'd be naive to think you're not going to have these situations."

I'm confused by McCutcheon's statements. Is he suggesting that it would be "unprofessional" of him if he tried to hold Ford to his contractual obligation? In other words, that it wouldn't be professional for him to say to Ford that they just agreed to a seven year deal and that he expects Ford to be bound by his promise? Why is that? And why is it "naive" to think that you can't keep another school from interfering with an existing contract?

Nothing will change so long as athletic directors continue to take the position that "it's just part of the business we're in".......


AD's don't want to enforce a coach's contract because AD's move from school to school too. And the president's don't want to hold them to their contracts because presidents move too. All the players in this system (coaches, ADs, presidents) want to move (up) too.

Blogger David -- 4/17/2008 4:00 PM  

Also, the first AD to sue a coach for breach of contract will also be the first AD to be unable to find a coach worth his salt who'll take the job.

Blogger Jason Wojciechowski -- 4/17/2008 9:10 PM  

NO GUTS, pure and simple

Anonymous Anonymous -- 4/17/2008 11:08 PM  

I agree with Jason's comment. I think it is an awful situation and could just get worse and worse, however an AD who sues his coach places fear in every future coach he tries to hire. But in college sports where a player chooses a school because of a coach and might be stuck there, it's ludicrous that a coach can breach his contract without any penalty/responsibility. Buyout clauses should become even more commonplace, requiring that there be some penalty, thus allowing only an efficient breach for the coach. But also, I think the NCAA needs to get involved. AD's are really at a disadvantage to deal with the problem, and therefore there needs to be a more unified front. Ford is one of many examples. Additionally, even if the coach stays, he can hold the college hostage for contract negotiations and more money when his original contract is meaningless.

Blogger Josh -- 4/18/2008 9:03 AM  

Two lawsuits that could be filed in bulk every year.

Breach of contract against coaches.
Breach of contract against other institutions for backing out of scheduled games.

Despite the numerous breaches litigation is all but unheard of in either instance.

It is just part of the culture/fraternity that is intercollegiate athletics.

Unless you are dream job, you hire people who want to use your job as a way to get one of those pinnacle positions and if you want to hire good people you don't scare them away.

There have been rumors of some coaches having contracts that give them basically a "free out" (ie. no or reduced buyout) if one of specific list of jobs is offered and a huge buyout for any other. Lou Holtz was rumored to have such a deal at Arkansas that included five jobs.

On the scheduling side, the world of football scheduling has been turned upside down. Used to be schedules were basically locked in six years out and fairly solid as much as ten years out. Now with most of the intercollegiate world under the direction of Bristol rather than Indianapolis, schedules aren't always final when the pocket schedules show up in the early spring.

If we see a rash of breach litigation that's where it will come from. When a school loses a non-conference home game against Big Name U and is left having to pay a FCS/I-AA school a premium just to fill out the full slate of games eventually someone is going to be fed up and sue.

Blogger Mark -- 4/18/2008 9:30 AM  

The UMass AD also undoubtedly recognizes that he himself will want to poach another school's coach in order to replace Ford. It's hard to complain about someone doing it to you, when you are about to do it to someone else yourself.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 4/18/2008 9:54 AM  

These arguments that "everybody's doing it" or "the AD or President want to breach their contracts too" or "the AD won't be able to find another coach ever again" just don't make a whole lot of sense to me, sorry. The one legitimate argument I can accept (but don't necessarily agree with) is that the school doesn't want to keep a disgruntled coach who doesn't want to be there.

Blogger Rick Karcher -- 4/18/2008 6:11 PM  

Doesn't a contract create legal obligations between two or more parties in which the agreement is a PRIVATE agreement? Who cares if the contract is breached as long as the terms of potential breaches within the contract are upheld...

Read more about my opinion at my blog, The Legal Scoop (

Great article by the way. Brings up some very interesting points.

Anonymous Scott -- 5/04/2008 4:03 PM  

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