A Jury Will Assess the Dispute Between LSU and Chavis

LSU and Chavis disputeIf you’ve been keeping up with the latest sports law news, you’ve probably heard Texas A&M Defensive Coordinator John Chavis will face a jury of his peers regarding his alleged breach of contract with Louisiana State University.

The Advocate reported Baton Rouge District Judge Tim Kelley recently concluded a jury will decide whether Chavis or LSU breached the former’s contract. The judge’s decision is the latest development in a high-profile sports lawsuit that’s been going on since early 2015.

Background of the LSU and Chavis case

Chavis is, according to Saturday Down South, one of the most reputable DCs in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Southeastern Conference. He served as DC for the Tennessee Volunteers (1995-2008) and the LSU Tigers (2009-2014). Now, he’s a DC and linebackers coach for the Texas A&M Aggies. During his time at LSU, analysts consistently ranked the team’s defense in the top 10 across the nation. 

What’s going on with the lawsuit? SB Nation provided a rundown of the case. On Jan. 5, 2015, Chavis submitted his 30-day notice to LSU in the wake of rumors speculating the DC was to leave the Baton Rouge-based school for a position at Texas A&M.  According to CBS Sports, Chavis’ LSU contract expired on Dec. 31, 2015.  However, Chavis maintained the contract contained the following conditions which allowed him to legally terminate the agreement before the end of last year:

  • Chavis could terminate the deal without cause provided he submitted an official 30-day notice.
  • If there were 11 months left on his contract or fewer, the DC could terminate the agreement without having to pay a penalty.

Here’s where things get a little messy. SB Nation noted that, on Jan. 15 of last year, a picture surfaced showing Chavis dawning Texas A&M gear while on an alleged recruiting visit with Kris Boyd, a corner back now playing for the University of Texas. The photo implies that Chavis was working for his current school before the 30-day notice period expired on Feb. 4. From LSU’s perspective, recruitment is a part of a coach’s job, and therefore, Chavis broke the contract’s agreement.

Lawsuits on both sides

KBTX.com reported that, before Chavis allegedly visited Boyd in an attempt to recruit him, LSU Director of Athletics Joe Alleva sent the DC a letter claiming the latter must pay the university $400,000. This was before Texas A&M officially hired Chavis. This prompted Chavis to file a suit claiming not only that he didn’t have to pay the penalty but also that Texas A&M was responsible for paying the fee if that was the case. 

Last year, a Texas judge dismissed the lawsuit, asserting the case belonged in a Louisiana district, according to Alabama.com. One of the recent arguments against Chavis’ suit is that he did not break the contract because he did not sign an amended contract during his tenure at LSU. However, the DC’s old school is still pursuing the case. 

Jill Craft, Chavis’ lead attorney, argued the $400,000 buyout Chavis owes the school is void because the school altered the contract in 2013. In her words, “[Chavis] didn’t breach it because he didn’t sign it.” However, Kelley maintained the lawsuit will go to jury in any case. As of the end of October, Kelley has not set a date for the jury trial. 

The National Collegiate Athletic Association contracts are quite complex, requiring thorough analysis from experienced attorneys. If you’re in the midst of negotiating a contract with your university or have any questions regarding the matter, please contact me, Anthony Caruso, 201-806-3364.

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Anthony R. Caruso is a business transactional attorney in New York and New Jersey with experience in structuring, negotiation and completion of legal deals involving business, entrepreneurs, athletes and performers.

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