David Beaty did not lose his job as football coach at the University of Kansas because a subordinate allegedly committed NCAA violations, as athletic department officials contend. Make no mistake: Beaty was canned because he did not win enough football games.
The coach was fired after posting an abysmal 6-42 record during his four seasons in Lawrence.
That Kansas Athletics’ lawyers would try to use a technicality to dismiss Beaty’s lawsuit seeking payment of a $3 million buyout isn’t all that surprising. Attorneys get paid to find legal loopholes for their clients.
But no amount of legal maneuvering can change the fact that Beaty is owed millions, as prescribed by a clause in the contract extension he signed in 2016.
Kansas Athletic Director Jeff Long appeared to understand this when, according to Beaty’s lawsuit, he told the coach that he was being terminated without cause and that KU would honor his buyout package.
Beaty was hired in 2014. With three games left in what would become a 3-9 season, the Texas native was notified in November that he would not be retained. He filed a federal lawsuit in March after school officials failed to make payments.
KU claims one of Beaty’s employees violated NCAA rules, an apparent pretext for arguing that the coach was terminated for cause. The alleged NCAA violations did not surface until exit interviews at the end of the season.
The lawsuit alleges that Kansas Athletics officials were determined to “find something” on the fired coach, like “a dead hooker in [Beaty’s] closet,” to justify the belated attempt to avoid paying the $3 million.
Attorneys for Kansas Athletics responded this week with a motion to dismiss the case. The memorandum lays out legal arguments about whether federal court is the wrong venue for the lawsuit, whether the University of Kansas is immune from federal lawsuits and whether Beaty can bring a claim under the Kansas Wage Payment Act — without directly addressing the coach’s allegations.
For better or worse, pricey buyouts are part of the cost of doing business in big-time college sports. So are seven-figure deals for coaches like Les Miles, Beaty’s replacement at KU.
Avoiding paying for separation agreements is simple: Don’t fire the coach.
KU did — without cause. And now, the university needs to pay up.
“They told the man his firing was without cause and asked him to stay and coach the final three games,” Michael Lyons, an attorney representing Beaty, told The Star this week. “His reward for sticking around was a promise to pay him the buyout. Now they are saying, ‘We know what we said, but now we are not going to pay you.’ ”
Since Beaty was fired, KU has shown a willingness to invest in its long-struggling football program, paying premiums for Miles, the new coaching staff and an assortment of newly created football support staff positions.
If the hiring spree has left KU’s athletic department strapped for cash, an influx of funds is on the way that could help cover the cost of doing business with Beaty. KU’s sponsorship contract with Adidas has been extended another 14 years, a deal that’s worth $14 million annually, or about $196 million total.
It’s no surprise that KU doesn’t want to give a historically bad football coach millions of dollars to go away. And Beaty certainly has been well compensated for losing, losing and losing some more.
As distasteful as it might be, though, KU must play by the rules it wrote into the former coach’s contract. It’s time to pay Beaty’s buyout and close this chapter.
The Kansas City Star