Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Trial date finalized in Bielema, foundation case
This is a March 5, 2020, photo of Bret Bielema of the New York Giants football team. (AP Photo)
FAYETTEVILLE — A trial date has been set in the dispute between former University of Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema and the Razorback Foundation.
The trial is scheduled to begin the week of June 1, 2021, at the John Paul Hammerschmidt Federal Building in Fayetteville, according to a scheduling order issued Friday. U.S. district judge P.K. Holmes III is presiding over the case.
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All discovery in the case must be completed by March 2, 2021, the court ordered, and all experts who are expected to testify must be identified and disclosed by Dec. 31, 2020.
Rebuttal experts are to be reported by Feb. 2, 2021.
If the parties agree to a settlement conference with a magistrate judge, they are ordered to contact the judge by April 1, 2021.
Bielema sued the foundation for not less than $7.025 million in June, and the foundation filed a counterclaim against Bielema earlier this month for not less than $4.555 million. Both sides have requested a jury trial.
On Aug. 20, Holmes ruled Bielema's lawsuit against the foundation should remain in the U.S. Western District of Arkansas after foundation attorneys requested to dismiss the case. The foundation argued the case should be heard in state court.
The sides are in disagreement over whether Bielema properly mitigated the foundation's obligation to pay him up to $11.935 million in severance. Bielema was fired as the Razorbacks' head coach in November 2017 and has served in various roles on NFL staffs since. He is in his first season as a linebackers coach for the New York Giants.
The foundation stopped making buyout payments to Bielema in January 2019 and demanded he repay more than $4 million. In court documents, the foundation claims Bielema was in breach of contract because he was not actively searching for a job and suppressed his income.
At the time the foundation stopped payments, Bielema was working in an advisory role for the New England Patriots at a salary of $100,000 per year. He had also been paid $25,000 by the Patriots that year as a draft consultant.
The foundation's letter informing Bielema of its decision was sent four days before the Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl.
The foundation's lead attorney in the case is Marshall Ney of Rogers. Tom Mars, who has offices in Rogers and Atlanta, is the lead attorney for Bielema.
Tom Murphy contributed
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