Judge sends LSU's case against Chavis suit to jury trial

By Kerry Goff | Jan 8, 2017

BATON ROUGE — LSU's lawsuit against former defensive coordinator John Chavis will be decided by a jury, District Judge Tim Kelley recently decided.

Rather than throwing out the lawsuit, Kelley said that a jury should decide whether there was a breach in contract when Chavis left the school for Texas A&M, The Advocate reported on Oct. 24.

In an attempt to break down the case, a March 5, 2015 SB Nation article said a clause in Chavis' contract allowed him to terminate his contract without penalty if he left LSU with less than 11 months remaining on his deal.

“His contract expired on Dec. 31, 2015, which means he would be able to leave for nothing beginning in February,” the SB Nation article said. “If he left before that 11-month mark, he would owe LSU $400,000. Since Chavis filed his 30-day notice with the window expiring after Feb. 1, he should have been fine to walk to Texas A&M for nothing, but that goes down the drain if he begins working for the Aggies before then.”

The lawsuit filed by LSU against Chavis argued that Chavis started working for Texas A&M before the 30-day window was over. KBTX.com reported that Chavis submitted his notice to LSU on Jan. 5, 2015, with his last day there to be Feb. 4. However, an article in The Advocate said Chavis was photographed wearing Aggies clothing with recruits that same month, even though he and Texas A&M claimed he did not begin working in an official capacity at the school until Feb. 13 of that year.

“[Chavis] should not have been able to be out doing work for Texas A&M in any capacity before that 30-day window closed on Feb. 4,” the SB Nation article said. “Recruiting is definitely within a coach's job description, so when he went to (recruit Kris) Boyd's home on Jan. 15, he was either in breach of contract and owes LSU that buyout or he was operating as a Texas A&M booster, which would be an NCAA violation.”

Chavis has claimed that Texas A&M should pay for the $400,000 buyout, but Texas A&M refuses to do so, according to KBTX.com.

"[Chavis' lead attorney Jill] Craft argued during the hearing … that Chavis' three-year deal, which stipulated he would owe LSU a $400,000 buyout if he left the school before Jan. 31, 2015, is void because of the alterations the university later made to the contract in 2013," The Advocate article said.

In response, Chavis submitted his own lawsuit against LSU, claiming that the school owes him more than $200,000 in unpaid vacation time and academic-performance bonuses, as well as $445,000 in penalty wages.

“His lawsuit was dismissed, but LSU's case continues,” The Advocate article said.

Craft said she will ask the state’s 1st Circuit Court of Appeal to review and reverse the judge’s ruling over Chavis’ suit dismissal.

Furthermore, Craft defended Chavis’ leaving LSU when he did because he did not sign the new contract, which was changed by LSU in 2013.

"He didn't breach it because he didn't sign it," Craft said.

The LSU Board of Supervisors' lawyer in the case, Harry "Skip" Philips Jr., said Chavis' contract, as well as the updated contract, contained the same $500,000 base salary as well as the same start and end dates. Regardless of any other changes, Chavis' breach of contract is still valid.

“Philips acknowledged the ‘wording’ of the buyout changed, but not the ‘substance’ of it,” The Advocate article said.

Phillips further argued that LSU was within the time period that would require Chavis to pay $400,000.

To date, there has been no date set for the jury trial in this case.

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