The $1.247 million judgment against basketball Coach Tubby Smith and the University of Minnesota makes me wonder if an Employment 101 class is needed in the world of college coaching.
This case is another reminder of how some college coaches and athletes seem to play/work in one world, and the rest of us work — or hope to work — in the real world.
In case you’ve missed the story, a Hennepin County jury on Wednesday found that Smith misrepresented in 2007 that he had the authority to hire Jimmy Williams as an assistant coach. At the time, Smith had just been hired at Minnesota.
Based on a phone conversation with Smith in spring 2007, Williams claimed he had a job offer and quit his job the next day at Oklahoma State University. A short while later, U Athletic Director Joel Maturi nixed the idea, citing Williams’ NCAA recruiting violations during his stint as a Gophers assistant coach in the 1970s and 1980s.
Having once covered workplace issues as a reporter for the Pioneer Press, I think an Employment 101 class for coaches might be needed, for several reasons:
• Even though the jury sided with Williams, I find it hard to believe that any managerial candidate in today’s uncertain world would think a job offer is a done deal until there’s something in writing. I certainly would not resign a six-figure coaching job and give up a three-year contract before I saw the new contract.
• In an age of employment background checks rivaling those at Homeland Security, I find it difficult to fathom that a coach or any university department head would even hint that an offer is on the table until the screening is completed.
• I don’t have Smith’s current salary immediately available, but last year his total package was $1.8 million — more than enough to cover the judgment. It’s also interesting that Williams originally sought damages of $1.6 million, according to one story I read. Another story said $1.7 million. Either way, the damage request is eerily close to the pay package of the University of Minnesota’s highest-paid employee.
On Wednesday evening, the university issued a statement from General Counsel Mark Rotenberg, indicating that an appeal is under consideration. Here’s an excerpt:
“The extraordinary amount awarded is completely unjustified by the facts, and the university and Coach Smith will be considering a variety of post-trial options, including an appeal,” Rotenberg said. Here’s the full statement.