Marist Sues Former Basketball Coach for Breach of Contract

Karl Rabe/Poughkeepsie Journal

Karl Rabe/Poughkeepsie Journal

Sean McMann of the Poughkeepsie Journal quoted me in a story concerning the lawsuit that Marist University recently filed against its former basketball coach, Matt Brady, and Brady’s new employer, James Madison University.  The story details a familiar topic, the virtual free agency system that has developed with respect to collegiate coaches:

In recent years, the college sports landscape has been littered with coaches leaving for new jobs with time left on their existing contracts. In essence, Fitzgerald said, such deals become “year-to-year contracts,” with schools usually holding little leverage to hold the coaches to their pacts.

The story also explores recent efforts by universities to curtail this practice, as demonstrated by the case of West Virginia v. Rodriguez and the BC-Jagodzinski situation.

A few additional points on Marist v. Brady and James Madison University:

  • At the highest level of Division I athletics schools have attempted to stop coaches from breaking their contracts by inserting buyout provisions in their contracts.  While an expensive buyout clause may not be feasible at Marist, a small Division I school, Marist nevertheless took a proactive approach to the Brady contract.  According to Marist’s Complaint, Brady’s contract required permission from Marist to discuss positions with other schools; and required that he wouldn’t attempt to bring the players he recruited for Marist with him.  The contract is a great example of Marist incorporating their long-term goals into its contract with Brady.  Marist apparently made the calculation that losing Brady was palatable; but losing recruits was not, and the contract was drafted accordingly.
  • I’ve written in detail about the power struggle between school and coaches.  While this case may start a trend of school taking a hard-line approach to coaching contracts, the coaches will undoubtedly respond.  Coaches are increasingly represented by agents and will seek more escape clauses that will allow them to be free to pursue other opportunities.
  • One of the most interesting aspects of this case is that Marist did not merely sue Brady, but also sued James Madison University for interfering with Marist’s contractual relationship with Brady. 
  • Keep in mind, that we’re dealing with mere allegations at this point.  Brady and James Madison University have yet to respond to the Complaint, or assert any defenses.  The case might look quite different after the defendants have responded.

For more on this story, see McMann’s initial article and Marist’s Complaint against Brady and James Madison University.

Trackbacks

  1. […] of contract case that Marist College brought against Matt Brady, its former basketball coach, which Connecticut Sports Law covered here.  My thanks to Holt Hackney, publisher of Sports Litigation […]

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