Now entering his second season as an NFL position coach, former Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema has entered a legal battle against his former employer.
The current outside linebackers coach for the New York Giants filed a lawsuit against Arkansas’ Razorback Foundation on Friday demanding $7,025,000 in payment for an alleged breach of Bielema’s buyout agreement, per Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel.
Here's the cover sheet of Bret Bielema vs the Razorback Foundation Inc., a $7,025,000 lawsuit Bielema's lawyers filed today in federal court in Arkansas. It's regarding "breach of head coach buyout agreement" from Bielema's firing. pic.twitter.com/uG2kHr9iMp— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) June 12, 2020
An attorney representing the Razorback Foundation soon responded to the lawsuit, calling it a preemptive strike in a looming legal battle and saying that the Foundation had requested Bielema return the highly specific $4,555,833.29 already paid to him, citing claims of multiple breaches on Bielema’s part.
Comment from Razorback Foundation attorney Marshall Nye on the lawsuit filed today by Bret Bielema: pic.twitter.com/SmZvCKdwn4— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) June 12, 2020
Bielema was fired by Arkansas in the minutes immediately following the end of a 4-8 season in 2017. The coach and school eventually agreed to a reported $12 million buyout agreement, to be paid in monthly installments of $320,833.33 per month through December 2020.
According to both Bielema and the foundation, that’s not exactly how it worked out.
Bret Bielema alleges Razorback Foundation breached buyout agreement
In his lawsuit, Bielema accused the Razorback Foundation of bad-faith efforts to renege on the agreement, unsubstantiated claims of breaches on Bielema’s part and basically sabotaging Bielema’s shot at another head coaching job.
The rest of Bret Bielema's lawsuit against the Razorback Foundation has been filed. It doesn't mince words. Accuses the Foundation of "calculated, bad faith efforts to renege on its contractural obligations." pic.twitter.com/Zi46533acr— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) June 12, 2020
The Razorback Foundation appeared to start this all late last year when it reportedly claimed Bielema failed to meet the requirements for his buyout and requested he repay $4.2 million to the foundation. Bielema obviously declined to do so.
The Razorback Foundation’s statement responding to the lawsuit appears confirmed that report.
This all comes down to a reported provision in Bielema’s agreement that salary he would receive in post-Arkansas coaching jobs would be removed from the amount owed by the Razorback Foundation. Bielema would later land jobs as a consultant and defensive line coach for the New England Patriots before the Giants gig.
Razorback Foundation president Scott Varady reportedly believed Bielema’s $150,000 salary as the Patriots defensive line coach — incidentally the maximum he was reportedly allowed to make without it coming out of his Arkansas checks — was below the market value of such a job and that Bielema was breaching the agreement.
In addressing those allegations, Bielema’s lawyers cited former Tennessee head coach Butch Jones, who was fired just a few weeks before Bielema. Bielema pointed to his salary being far larger than Jones’ corresponding income as an analyst and assistant at Alabama, with no complaint from Tennessee.
Interesting legal nuance here. Bielema's lawyers are using Butch Jones' salary at Alabama as an example for why Bret's low salaries in New England were justified. "(UT) hasn't manufactured a baseless claim as a pretext to stop paying Coach Jones and to recoup (the buyout $)" pic.twitter.com/aU1cEa1bmy— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) June 12, 2020
Clearly, this could be the start of an ugly battle, with at least three SEC programs and two NFL teams directly or indirectly involved. We’ll have to wait and see what comes of it, and if we see a similar battle again in two years.
The full lawsuit can be seen below.
More from Yahoo Sports: