When Kansas fired head football coach David Beaty in November, the school said it would fulfill the terms of his contract, which called for a $3 million buyout if Beaty was fired without cause.
On March 12, Beaty filed a lawsuit alleging KU has not paid any of that buyout, even after the former coach agreed to meet with NCAA investigators after Kansas informed Beaty of a “potential” violation the school identified during his time as head coach.
The suit also says Kansas athletic director Jeff Long and “at least one other senior Kansas Athletics official” openly discussed needing to “find something” to void Beaty’s buyout, such as, in the suit’s words, “a dead hooker ... in [Coach Beaty’s] closet.”
The lawsuit, filed by Beaty’s representatives in federal district court in Kansas, alleges KU first contacted Beaty in December to formally deny previously agreed-upon monthly payments of $500,000 over six months.
Since Beaty filed the lawsuit, the school has accused Beaty of not cooperating with an investigation, saying his filing “is full of false claims and factual misstatements.”
Beaty says he has cooperated — both with Kansas’ efforts and a subsequent NCAA review — and that KU’s claim he refused to cooperate is “verifiably false.”
According to Beaty’s suit, the school told the coach the reason for not paying his $3 million buyout was “a self-initiated NCAA investigation being conducted — not by the NCAA — but by Kansas Athletics’ corporate counsel looking into impropriety involving a former assistant coach.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the potential violation in question would have taken place between the 2017 and ‘18 seasons, and involved a member of Beaty’s football staff. According to the lawsuit, Beaty agreed to meet with the NCAA directly and sat for an interview with a NCAA enforcement staff member on Feb. 27.
“Coach Beaty answered the investigators questions fully,” the lawsuit claims. In addition, the suit states that Kansas continues to refuse to pay Beaty any of his $3 million buyout, citing the need to wait for “the investigation” to conclude.
“The investigation could potentially last for months before it concludes,” the lawsuit read. “Kansas Athletics continues to move the goal posts to avoid its contractual obligations that it acknowledged publicly, privately, orally, and in writing many times before using as a self-initiated investigation as a shield to delay or attempt to avoid them.”
Kansas released a statement the night Beaty filed his suit, saying he’d refused to cooperate in its investigation.
Here it is in its entirety:
The University of Kansas is aware of a court filing submitted by attorneys of former Head Football Coach David Beaty. While the university typically does not comment on pending litigation, the nature of the current matter warrants further context.
The filing is full of false claims and factual misstatements, including that KU’s Director of Athletics made salacious comments about seeking reasons to withhold payment from Beaty. Simply, that did not happen.
Here are the facts. Beaty was informed he would not be retained by KU on November 4, 2018, but would be able to coach the remaining games. Immediately following the end of the season, Kansas Athletics staff conducted standard exit interviews of all football coaches and staff, and through that process we learned of possible NCAA violations allegedly committed by Beaty. KU contacted the NCAA and the Big 12 Conference and began an investigation into the matter. Beaty refused to cooperate with the KU review and, ultimately, the NCAA took the lead in the still-ongoing investigation.
Due to the nature of the allegations, which, if true, would be in violation of the terms of Beaty’s contract, the university has withheld payment of money owed to Beaty pending the outcome of the NCAA investigation. In a show of good faith, the university has placed the full amount owed in escrow.
While disappointed in the court filing, the university is committed to seeking the truth and upholding our high standards of ethical conduct.
Beaty, though, says he cooperated fully with Kansas’ review, and then cooperated with the NCAA after it took over the investigation.
Beaty’s representatives sent this statement from Beaty to SB Nation on March 26:
KU’s statement that its review was focused on possible NCAA violations committed by me and that I refused to cooperate is verifiably false. From December 21st of last year to February 1st of this year my attorney sent multiple letters and emails to KU’s attorney trying to get my interview scheduled. Those attempts were accompanied by requests for copies of certain documents of mine that remained in KU’s possession and would allow me to properly prepare and accurately address any concerns.
For weeks my offer to interview and my requests for my documents were ignored. When it became clear that KU was unwilling to provide me the complete set of materials I requested, I went ahead and offered a specific date in early February on which I could interview even without all of the material requested. At that time, however, KU informed me that the NCAA had decided to pull the investigation from KU’s internal team and take it over itself. Within twenty-four hours, me and my attorneys were in touch with the NCAA investigator and an interview date was immediately agreed to. I promptly interviewed with the NCAA and answered each and every question asked. With clearance from the enforcement staff, I even provided KU a draft of my interview transcript.
While the NCAA’s investigative process prohibits me from discussing the investigation or my interview in any detail, I am able to communicate that I voluntarily interviewed with the enforcement staff regarding alleged NCAA violations, and I have fully cooperated with the investigation. I will continue to cooperate with the NCAA should they have any follow-up requests for information but otherwise look forward to the prompt resolution of their work.
SB Nation obtained correspondence between Beaty’s and KU’s lawyers, laying out this timeline:
- On Dec. 13 2018, a letter from KU’s representatives to Beaty’s stated the school’s refusal of payment was because the athletic department got information that “a possible NCAA rule violation occurred in the football program as early as December 2017.”
- On Dec. 21, a law firm representing Beaty told KU’s reps that the coach “has agreed to respond to any reasonable request for a NCAA interview,” and said that he would be available as early as Jan. 7, 2019, more than a month before Beaty’s suit says he met with the NCAA. The law firm also requested documents from KU’s athletic department,
Further emails stretch through January, with lawyers for Beaty repeatedly requesting documents from Kansas and offering Beaty’s availability to meet with the NCAA. According to reps for Beaty, those document requests haven’t been completely fulfilled.
An NCAA spokesperson, Stacey Osburn, said in a statement to SB Nation after Beaty filed suit: “We cannot comment on current, pending or potential investigations.”
When reached for comment then, Michael Lyons, an attorney representing Beaty, told SB Nation “KU’s conduct is reprehensible and frankly unbecoming,” and that Beaty’s team thought a jury would “find Coach Beaty is owed what he was promised.”
Under the terms of his contract, Kansas would owe Beaty $3 million, spread over six months, if it fired him without cause.
Kansas hired Beaty in December 2014. He became the program’s fourth head coach in six years and was tasked with rebuilding one of worst rosters in Power 5. His initial contract with KU was for five years at $800,000 per season. After the 2016 season, Beaty got a two-year extension that brought his pay to a $1.8 million annual average through 2021.
Beaty’s time in Lawrence saw some gains in recruiting, but little on-field success. The school hired Long as AD in July 2018, and Long fired Beaty with three games left in the season. The coach stayed on for those games and left with with a 6-42 record over four seasons. Long then signed former LSU coach Les Miles to a five-year contract at $2.775 million per year, with retention bonuses that could take it over $3 million per year.
The structure of Beaty’s buyout stipulated a $3 million payment if KU fired him, as long as the Jayhawks didn’t fire him with cause. The buyout amount wasn’t specifically tied to the remaining money on his deal or a particular firing date.
Beaty’s lawyers allege KU officials wanted to dig up dirt on the coach to escape his buyout.
Beaty’s lawsuit alleges that despite verbal and written assurances by Long that Kansas would honor Beaty’s contract, the school was plotting to find a way out of the buyout:
“In the days and weeks that followed [Beaty’s firing], and on more than one occasion and in the presence of multiple KU and/or Kansas Athletics employees, AD Long and at least one other senior Kansas Athletics official commented that they needed to ‘find something on Coach Beaty,’ so that they might avoid having to pay him the contractually owed $3 million dollars.”
The suit goes on to detail: “More specifically, it was suggested by those same employees that Kansas Athletics needed to find ‘a dead hooker ... in [Coach Beaty’s] closet’ to provide leverage in resolving their $3 million payment problem.”
The lawsuit also says Kansas asked Beaty to agree to “an extended payment schedule purportedly to alleviate the tax implications” of the buyout, and Beaty declined.
In December, Kansas notified Beaty of a potential NCAA violation during his tenure, his lawyers say, suggesting his firing could become “for cause.”
That distinction is important. Firing Beaty for cause could let the school not pay some or all of his buyout. Firing a coach without cause — i.e., because you don’t want them to work for you anymore — doesn’t provide buyout relief.
According to Beaty’s representatives at his agency, MGC Sports, the coach received a letter from Kansas’ general counsel, dated Dec. 14, that said the university was conducting an internal investigation “to determine if one of Coach Beaty’s former subordinates had allegedly committed NCAA rules violations more than two years earlier.”
Alan Bullington, a lawyer for MGC Sports, told SB Nation that, before Beaty filed his lawsuit, lawyers representing the coach had made four separate attempts to communicate with Kansas regarding specific details of an alleged violation and had not received communication back.
The suit alleges that Long “unequivocally” assured Beaty both verbally and in writing that his firing would be without cause, and that Beaty relied on those assurances in staying on through the end of the season “in order to smooth the coaching transition for KU.”
The lawsuit suggests Kansas told schools interested in hiring Beaty that he was under NCAA investigation.
The suit states that Kansas has been “more than willing to notify prospective employers that Coach Beaty is the subject of a NCAA investigation.”
However, there is no current indication that Beaty is under any kind of investigation by the NCAA.
Since his firing by Kansas, Beaty’s name has been hot on the coaching market. Tom Herman’s Texas staff invited him to join the Longhorns ahead of the Big 12 Championship against Oklahoma, and his name’s been linked to Texas as a potential assistant for weeks.
Beaty’s buyout from Kansas does not “offset,” meaning that no matter what a future employer pays him, Kansas owes him the entire $3 million if his firing is without cause.