BC-Jagodzinski Contract: Expectations Unfulfilled

jagThe power struggle between college football coaches and the universities for which they work, has taken some interesting twists and turns over the last year or so.  Coaches have long operated in a system of virtual free agency, with little regard for the binding nature of contracts.  Universities have attempted to fight the flight of their coaches by way of expensive buyout provisions.  Coaches and their agents have been up to the challenge, negotiating creative contract terms that allow a coach to leave a university if the university does not follow through on its promises, such a stadium renovation or construction of new workout facility.

So what bearing will the news that Boston College intends to fire head football coach Jeff Jagodzinski for interviewing with the New York Jets have on coaching contracts?  What lessons can be learned?

Get the Entire Agreement in Writing

At its core, this case demonstrates the most simple rule of contracts: get the entire agreement on paper.  Coach Jagodzinski’s contract reportedly contains no clause that prevents him from interviewing for other coaching positions.  Boston College Athletic Director Gene DiFilippo has claimed that he and Jacodzinski had an oral agreement that this partnership would be long-term, and not a stepping-stone for the coach.  In court however, evidence of  oral agreements is inadmissible to alter the terms of written contract.  So why didn’t BC include these supposed oral terms in the contract?  After all, this hiring was not a small investment – Jagodzinski earned over $1  million per year.  Honor and integrity are wonderful things – but for $1 million I want everything on paper.

Account for the Goals of Both Parties

Another issue that comes to mind is whether Jagodzinski’s contract accurately reflected the goals of both parties, and provided mechanisms to achieve those goals.  Assume that BC wanted a long-term coach and a winning football program and Jagodzinski wanted to coach BC, but leave open the opportunity to land his ultimate dream job, head coach for an NFL team.  A contract provision could be negotiated where Jagodzinski would be allowed to escape from his contract only if he led BC to a certain number of wins and an NFL team offered him a head coaching position.  Such a “dream job”  provision is not unprecedented.  Lou Holtz exercised such a clause when he left the University of Minnesota to coach Notre Dame.

Robert Boland of the National Football Post suggests that a retention bonus is an underutilized mechanism to secure the services of a coach on a long-term basis.  In fact, Boland cites Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who recently received a $1 million bonus for coaching at OU for ten years, as a prime example.  (Boland’s article, which also discusses BC’s legal remedies in the Jagodzinski matter, is excellent).

What Happens Next?

The BC-Jagodzinski saga will surely affect contractual language insisted upon by both universities and coaches alike.  For universities, loyalty clauses and retention bonuses may be more seriously considered.  For coaches, the right to interview or dream job provisions may be insisted upon.  For Jagodzinski, the Boston Globe reports that he will not return to BC and will meet with DeFilippo to work out a resolution to the remaining three years on his contract.

Comments

  1. Flutie Magic says:

    Will BC have to pay the rest of his contract if he is fired, seeing as there was nothing in writing that said he would not leave after a certain period of time?

  2. Dan Fitzgerald says:

    BC would likely be on the hook for the rest of the contract, or at least Coach Jags’ base salary. Although the contract is reportedly worth $1 million, a significant portion of that figure could be related to public appearances that Coach Jags would make as coach of BC, such as radio and TV shows, alumni events, etc. BC would not have to pay for those services, which Coach Jags will be unable to provide. For example, UConn coach Jim Calhoun’s base salary is $300,000, but he received over $1million in speaking, consulting and media fees.

  3. Flutie Magic says:

    Thanks, I wonder if BC will put in their annual “giving” letter to alumni that the school needs support more than ever in order to pay the departed football coach as the Athletic Department didn’t put in the contract that Jags can’t go interview for other positions.

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Trackbacks

  1. […] Controversy Overshadowed Plight of Recruits A few weeks ago, the standoff between Boston College Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo and his handpicked Head Coach, Jeff Jagodzinski was the hot topic in collegiate sports law.  DeFilippo and BC were applauded for […]

  2. […] few weeks ago, Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo fired head football coach Jeff Jagodzinski after he interviewed for the head coaching vacancy with the New York Jets.  True, Coach […]

  3. […] be considered too small for either side to retain an attorney.  But form contracts do nothing to enhance the goals of either party – a key objective in any contract – regardless of how small the monetary value of the […]

  4. […] year, Boston College fired football coach Jeff Jagodzinski after he interviewed for the New York Jets’  head coaching vacancy.  Although BC is not […]

  5. […] Coaches should consider a contractual provision that would allow the coach to escape from his or her contract if the coach is offered a head coaching position at a specific school or list of schools.  Lou Holtz exercised a similar provision in his contract with the University of Minnesota when he …. […]

  6. […] few years ago, Boston College fired football coach Jeff Jagodzinski after he interviewed for the New York Jets’  head coaching vacancy.  Although BC is not […]

  7. […] Many fans are concerned as to whether UConn can attract a top coach given its position in the fledgling American Athletic Conference.  Certainly the job is less prestigious than it was a few years ago.  However, there are plenty of football coaches willing to accept $1 million plus to coach at UConn.  To attract and retain an up and coming coach, UConn might consider some unique contractual provisions, such as a dream job clause and retention bonus in lieu of a buyout clause. […]

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