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Law 360, April 24, 2020

A lawsuit against the University of Kansas athletics department could be a test case for whether colleges can use NCAA investigations as a way to avoid huge payouts to fired coaches and may also unearth new details about a federal corruption probe into the school’s storied basketball program.

Former Kansas Jayhawks football coach Dave Beaty, whose teams went 6-42 over four seasons, is arguing that a relatively mundane NCAA infraction involving his staff is insufficient to show he breached his contract, particularly when the school has chosen not to fire others facing more serious allegations.
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A spokesman for Kansas Athletics did not respond to a request to comment on this story. However, the university is vehemently denying the NCAA charges and filed an opposition to them last month. Both Kansas and Self have said Self had no knowledge of any payments to players.

“I think by default, ruling that they have to give up stuff on Self is, in a way, a big win for Beaty in and of itself … because Beaty will have more leverage,” said sports and entertainment attorney Glen Rothstein.

He added that the relevant parties have different goals and motives. Self has been very successful at Kansas as his basketball teams have won 15 Big XII regular season titles, made it to three Final Fours and won the 2008 National Championship.

“The NCAA wants to make an example of a high-profile program. Beaty thinks he was treated unfairly, and the basketball program wants to protect itself,” Rothstein said.

Rothstein further noted that Self is one of the few coaches that has negotiated his contract to provide him with a multimillion-dollar payout even if he is fired over an NCAA violation, which could be relevant to whether or not the allegations are a breach of his contract.

Still, the Beaty suit could drag Self and Kansas through the mud.

“At the end of the day, I think it is going to come down to whether Kansas wants to go to the mat to protect itself,” Rothstein said.

The case is Beaty et al. v. Kansas Athletics Inc., case number 2:19-cv-02137, in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas.

–Editing by Jill Coffey and Michael Watanabe.

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