New York Giants senior defensive assistant and outside linebackers coach Bret Bielema has filed a federal lawsuit against the private fundraising arm attached to the University of Arkansas athletic department, per reports from USA Today.
Bielema is seeking more than $7 million in compensation after alleging that the Razorback Foundation violated the agreed-upon buyout that was signed after Bielema was fired as the school’s head football coach back in 2017.
Bielema is seeking $7.025 million in compensatory damages plus punitive damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney fees and court costs as a result of Arkansas’ decision not to pay the full amount of $11.935 million that had been negotiated and agreed upon Jan. 30, 2018.
At issue is whether Bielema satisfied his obligations under the terms of the agreement to seek other coaching jobs that would have reduced at least part of what he was owed. Such offset language, where the salary of any job taken within the term of the contract is subtracted from the remaining cost of the buyout, is common in college coaching contracts.
Bielema served as the Razorback’s head coach from 2013 through 2017. He was relieved of his duties in 2017 after a disappointing 4-8 record on the season. The next year he would go to become the defensive consultant for the then-defending Super Champion, New England Patriots in 2018. The following season, Bielema was promoted to defensive line coach with the Pats. This offseason, Bielema would proceed to follow fellow Patriots assistant Joe Judge to New York, being named the Giants’ outside linebackers coach and senior assistant in late January.
The Razorback Foundation stopped monthly payments to Bielema in December of 2018 when reports surfaced that the coach’s salary with the Patriots was well below the average salary of an NFL assistant coach. According to the New York Post, Bielema was making just $100,000 annually in 2018. He did see his salary increase to $250,000 the following season. Bielema is now slated to make $400,000 with the Giants in 2020.
Bielema’s lawsuit calls the Razorback Foundation’s decision to stop payments “a calculated, bad faith effort to renege on its contractual obligations.”
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Bielema Was at Risk of Being Sued
Razorback Foundation attorney Marshall Ney has gone on record stating that Bielema’s decision to file a lawsuit boils down to the coach attempting to avoid being sued for his portion of the payout.
We just received a copy of the complaint at 2:50 CDT from Bret Bielema’s counsel. It appears that the complaint was provided to the media several hours ago – even before the complaint was accessible on the court’s website. What I can share at this point before digesting the entire document is that the Foundation previously demanded that Bret Bielema return the $4,555,833.29 that had been paid to him prior to the Foundation’s discovery of his multiple material breaches of the agreement. It appears that Bielema filed suit in order to avoid being sued.
Bielema Eyeing a Return to CFB?
While Bielema has taken his coaching prowess to the big leagues in recent years, it’s clear he’s kept one foot in the collegiate ranks. He was a candidate for numerous FBS head coaching vacancies this offseason, including Michigan State and Colorado, despite already being added to Big Blue’s coaching staff.
A jump back down to college in the near future would not come as a surprise, as all of Bielema’s NFL contracts since leaving Arkansas have contained language which would let him out free and clear if he were to accept a Division I head coaching job.
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