Former LSU Assistant Coach Sues School to Avoid $400,000 Buyout

| Jason M. Knott

LSU is used to battling with its Southeastern Conference (SEC) foes on the gridiron.  Now, it’s fighting in court with a former assistant who jumped ship to conference rival Texas A&M. 

John Chavis, LSU’s ballyhooed former defensive coordinator, left LSU for A&M at the beginning of this year, sparking headlines about “winning big” at his new home in College Station.  But storm clouds were brewing – LSU’s athletic director, Joe Alleva, said that he expected Chavis to comply with a $400,000 contractual buyout. 

On February 27, Chavis sued LSU in Texas state court, seeking to avoid the buyout.  He named A&M as a defendant as well, but only as an “indispensable party,” reported Jerry Hinnen of  The Associated Press reported that A&M agreed to pay the buyout for Chavis if he was found to owe it.

LSU, seeking a home field against Chavis, quickly filed a separate case against him in Baton Rouge, claiming that it is entitled to receive the buyout money.

 Chavis’s contract reportedly said that if Chavis left in the first 11 months of his contract, before January 31, 2015, he would have to pay the buyout.   The sequence of events appears to be that Chavis gave a required 30-day notice on January 5 that he was resigning and terminating his contract.  Chavis says that he left LSU by February 4 – after the January 31 end to the buyout period – and didn’t join the Aggie payroll until February 13. 

Glenn Guilbeau of Gannett says that LSU argues that Chavis confirmed on January 1 that he had been hired by Texas A&M, and photos showed Chavis recruiting in A&M gear in January.  However, a Baton Rouge lawyer who has sued LSU in the past suggested that Chavis could have been working for free until after his buyout period ran out.  Guilbeau also proposes an unprecedented dispute resolution procedure: make Nov. 28’s game between the schools the “Buyout Bowl,” and settle the issues on the field.

Finally, the law of unintended consequences has also come into play: Louisiana journalists are raising questions about whether Chavis would have violated NCAA bylaws by recruiting for A&M while he says he wasn’t employed by the school.  Ron Higgins of the New Orleans Times-Picayune even suggested that LSU fans might consider suing Chavis for the Tigers’ bad defense last year.  We’ll be watching to see if Chavis’s legal defense team fares better.