DALLAS (CN) – Former University of Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie claims the school’s athletic association reneged on his employment contract by failing to pay $1.5 million per year for the rest of his contract after he was fired.
Gillispie says that on multiple occasions during his employment, the school insisted that their memorandum of understanding constituted a signed, written and binding contract. He says that in correspondences with the school’s general counsel, Barbara Jordan, she emphasized that the MOU was a contractual offer that was accepted.
“The University is satisfied the executed Memorandum of Understanding contains all of the basic terms needed for an employment agreement, and can itself serve as the employment contract for the coach,” Jordan wrote in a Nov. 1, 2007 letter, according to the federal complaint.
And he says that when the Lexington Herald Leader newspaper requested a copy of Gillispie’s contract, Gillispie’s legal counsel was informed by the school that a copy of the MOU would be provided.
In the MOU, the school agreed to pay $1.5 million per year remaining on the contract if Gillispie was terminated without cause.
In his two seasons as head coach, Gillispie had a 40-17 record at Kentucky. In spite of the winning record, Gillispie was fired on March 27 for what the school described as philosophical differences between the coach and university administrators.
“There is a clear gap in how the rules and responsibilities overseeing the program are viewed,” athletic director Mitch Barnhart said at the time. “It is a gap I do not believe can be solved by just winning games.”
Since his firing, the school did an abrupt about-face regarding the MOU, taking the position that the parties never had an employment contract, and refusing to pay the $1.5 million for each year remaining on the agreement, Gillispie says.
“It is our belief that the relationship between [Gillispie] and the University is simply not a good fit in many ways,” Barnhart said after the firing. “The inability to come to an agreement on critical terms of an employment contract after two years of negotiation is just one indication of this incompatibility.”
The school has hired John Calipari as Gillispie’s replacement, who previously coached at the University of Memphis for nine seasons.
Gillispie is represented by Demetrios Anaipakos with Ahmad Zavitsanos Anaipakos.