Sunday, January 17, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

Last week found me struck down with some kind of weird fever virus, the main symptom of which seemed to be a high fever that topped off around 102. It pretty much only lasted 20 hours or so and then I was back to feeling relatively normal. Due to the fact that I had a really bad headache I didn't much feel like reading. So it was a good thing that I had access to ESPN and text messages during the period I was down to follow all of the high drama going on in college football.

For those of you who either don't know or don't care, there has been much turbulence in the college coaching ranks. Lane Kiffin (resplendent in orange and black above) left Tennessee after one year to take the Southern Cal job which became open when Pete Carroll left to go back to the NFL from whence he had not exactly enjoyed much success in his 2 previous gig with the pros. Kiffin was available to go to UT after Phil Fulmer "retired." Well, actually, he was able to go anywhere after getting fired by the Oakland Raiders.

Tommy Tuberville came out of retirement to take the Texas Tech job after they fired Mike Leach for allegedly making an injured player stand by himself in a shed. That and for being an asshole. Skip Holtz left East Carolina to go to South Florida when they fired Jim Leavitt for alleging slapping a player.

Whew! No wonder my head hurt! That's a lot to keep track of for a sickly boy such as myself.

The folks at Tennessee went ballistic when Kiffin bolted for sunny California after only one season. They set mattresses on fire outside a dorm, wrote obscene things about him on a big rock on campus and filled the airwaves and Internet with all kinds of invective about "disloyalty" and about how Kiffin was nothing better than a nickel plated phony.

Well, yeah.

Whenever this kind of stuff happens, and this kind of merry-go-round happens all the time in the utter cesspool known as college basketball, you also hear otherwise sensible people wax earnestly about contracts being moral obligations and that these coaches need to honor them as such.

Even financial guru Dave Ramsey was putting this malarkey out on Good Morning America concerning homeowners who make the purely economic decision to walk away from mortgages that are under water. Ramsey said that folks made a promise when they signed that note and they ought to live up to it. Which is, of course, nonsense.

As retired Roman Catholic Bishop McDonald used to say around here about funerals, the recent activity in the world of football, provides me with yet again an opportunity to teach. So here goes.

Subsumed in every contract is the right to breach. You can tell I am a lawyer. I use words like subsume. Not while making out or anything but I digress. Anyway, the law does not enforce moral obligations. It enforces legal obligations. And you have the right to breach. And the only question upon breach is how to put the non-breaching party in as good a position as he can be had the contract been fulfilled. That's it.

You can't have the breaching party arrested. Unless your contract is for a loan that is secured by goods you can't just go seize his stuff. And even if you could force a breaching party to perform on a personal services contract nobody in their right mind would do it. You only want to employ somebody that wants to be there.

And because these coaches breach contracts all the time, every one of these contracts have liquidated damage clauses known in the coaching world as "buyouts." If State U wants to hire your coach then they will buy out his contract with your school. Conversely, the only reason Charlie Weis lasted as long as he did at Notre Dame is because the Irish brass foolishly gave him a 10 year extension after his first season. To eat 8 years of a 10 year deal was too rich even for the fact cats at ND. Merely sucking is not sufficient"cause" to avoid paying a contract after firing somebody. The firee has to, well, slap a kid or something.

Rather than bitch and moan about how "wrong" it is when ever an opportunist like Lane Kiffin or Pete Carroll hits the bricks, maybe we would be better off asking ourselves if Urban Meyer is worth 4 million a year and whether the dirty arms race for players and coaches can possibly be sustained without cooking the books like many schools, such as the University of Central Arkansas here, are suspected of doing.

Oh. I forgot. Derek Dooley left Louisiana Tech to take the Chair of Football at Tennessee. Dooley actually has a license to practice law in Georgia. Or he did at one time. He would agree that subsumed in every contract is the right to breach. He just did it.

If you don't believe me, ask him.

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