Although John Beilein’s resignation last April as West Virginia University’s head basketball coach did not attract nearly the attention (or outrage) that Rich Rodriguez’s resignation has, that could change.
When Beilein left for the same position at the University of Michigan, he was able to negotiate a reduction in the amount of his buyout with WVU from $2.5 million to $1.5 million, payable in five annual installments to the West Virginia University Foundation, Inc. (Incidentally, Beilein’s attorney in those negotiations now represents WVU in its lawsuit against Rodriguez.)
Sports writer Mike Casazza reports in today’s (Charleston) Daily Mail that on April 1, Beilein paid the first installment of $300,000, less a deduction of $10,000 to reflect incentives he was owed for achieving team GPA and graduation rate levels, to WVU President Mike Garrison. Here is Beilein’s letter, which also has a copy of the check. The Daily Mail obtained the letter through a FOIA request, which seems to be the only way to get information from WVU.
Here are some excerpts from Beilein’s letter:
It is my belief that the [Resolution and Termination] Agreement’s provision requiring payment of $1.5 million over five years is void and unenforceable because it is a penalty premised on an unenforceable and illegal liquidated damages provision contained in the Employment Agreement. The liquidated damages provision in the Employment Agreement is grossly disproportionate to any actual damages that might have been incurred by the University and is void as a matter of public policy.
At that time, I have chosen not to initiate legal proceedings to declare the Agreement and the related liquidated damages provision in the Employment Agreement void but reserve my right to seek future action. I urge the University to stop using the liquidated damages provision in its employment contracts because such provisions are illegal, onerous, and violate public policy.
Obviously Beilein doesn’t want to be a defendant in a breach of contract action, so he made the payment as agreed. But judging from his statements, he may not mind being the plaintiff in a declaratory judgment action aimed at invalidating his buyout. He may also be waiting to see how WVU does in its lawsuit against Rodriguez. Their situations are so different factually, though, that whatever happens with Rodriguez would not be an accurate barometer of what Beilein could expect.
Beilein also says that he’s making his payment “[w]ithout waiving any rights and under protest[.]” But even if he raised his concerns with WVU before entering into the agreement, he signed the agreement, which would seem to undermine his implied threat that he may not abide by its terms.