Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Breached Bielema buyout agreement could be costly
New England Patriots defensive line coach Bret Bielema watches during an NFL preseason football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
It isn’t personal.
It is all business.
The Razorback Foundation believes that Bret Bielema failed to meet the requirements for his buyout.
They have asked the $4.2 million paid him be repaid to the Foundation.
Bielema wants to keep that money and receive the remaining $7.6 million while working as a defensive line coach for the New England Patriots for $150,000, far below the market value of an assistant in the NFL.
That is the maximum he’s allowed to make (it was previously reported as $50,000) without it coming out of his monthly check of $320,833.33 that was being paid until this year.
Late last year Scott Varady, president of the Razorback Foundation and an attorney himself (and a Little Rock Catholic High graduate), decided the agreement with Bielema had been breached.
Varady decided to fight for the Razorback Foundation and its members.
Before going any further, here are the players besides Bielema and the Foundation.
Bielema’s agent, Neil Cornrich, and it should be noted he also is Patriots Coach Bill Belichick’s agent.
Bielema is represented by the law firm of McGuireWoods, which has 917 partners, associates and various other legal minds. They have 21 offices covering all the major cities in the U.S. as well as London and Shanghai.
In August, they added top-shelf attorney Tom Mars, who has offices in Atlanta and Rogers. Mars is the hottest name in college athletics right now.
It appears R. Craig Woods, the Woods whose name is on the firm, is representing Bielema.
Maybe they should be called the Goliath.
The Foundation has hired Marshall Ney from the Rogers office of Friday, Eldredge and Clark.
The Friday firm has 89 attorneys and three offices, all in Arkansas.
It is hard to call them the David vs. Goliath because they have some of the sharpest legal minds in the country, but they are physically outmanned 10 to 1.
However, if this disagreement ever goes to court it will be in Washington County.
Anyway, those are the players.
In January, Bielema received an email from Ney, of the Friday firm, informing the former Arkansas coach he had breached the agreement in which he was required to:
• Diligently seek and obtain other employment of the same or similar nature;
• Provide a written summary to the Razorback Foundation of his efforts to find other employment twice a year;
• Notify the Foundation in writing of other employment obtained and income received; and
• Use his best efforts to maximize earning potential with any new employer.
It seems the Foundation and Ney felt Bielema failed all four of those requirements and therefore breached the agreement.
Bielema is a likable guy, but his monthly payments were about nine times the average income in Arkansas for a year, and nowhere did the agreement say he could make a career change.
Bielema’s lawyer answered with a laundry list of ways Bielema had searched for head coaching jobs, but when studied there were several emails between Bielema and Cornrich about various subjects.
There was a hint about Arizona, who was already looking at Kevin Sumlin. There were several media speculations that Bielema was in line for a job, but there were no quotes from him.
Meanwhile, Bielema was an unpaid volunteer for the Patriots for an entire year, and of the 10 Power 5 openings, he sought none.
He was quoted last year as saying he may not return to the college ranks.
Bielema seems happy in the NFL, and he deserves happiness. Take the $4.2 million and stay happy.
If this gets taken to court, he could lose it all.
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