Fired Jayhawks football coach David Beaty files lawsuit against KU, seeking $3 million

Head coach David Beaty of the Kansas Jayhawks watches his team during a game against the Iowa State Cyclones in the first quarter at Memorial Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Former Kansas football coach David Beaty said Tuesday he was suing the school’s athletic department in federal court, alleging breach of contract and seeking $3 million he contends he’s owed after he was fired in November.

The Jayhawks said they are withholding the money pending an NCAA investigation into possible rules violations by the former coach.

Beaty was let go with three games left last season but finished out the year to end his tenure with a 6-42 record in four seasons.

The woeful program did post a conference victory over TCU and end a 46-game road losing streak under Beaty, whose contract was extended two years through 2021 in late 2016.

Beaty’s attorney, Michael Lyons of Dallas, said the contract guaranteed payment if Beaty was terminated without cause and that the coach would be paid $3 million owed to him.

Instead, the attorney said, Kansas officials discussed what it would take to avoid paying Beaty and contends he was told in December there were “allegations involving a member of the football staff and that Kansas athletics would not make the guaranteed payments” pending an investigation.

“Beaty has cooperated with the investigation and has been unequivocal that he is unaware of any violations of any NCAA rules while the head football coach at KU,” according to an excerpt of the lawsuit.

Jim Marchiony, a Kansas associate athletic director, said the school learned “of possible NCAA violations allegedly committed by Beaty” after the season during exit interviews with football coaches and staff.

“KU contacted the NCAA and the Big 12 Conference and began an investigation into the matter. Beaty refused to cooperate with the KU review and, ultimately, the NCAA took the lead in the still-ongoing investigation,” Marchiony said.

He also said the money owed to Beaty is being held in escrow “in a show of good faith” pending the outcome of the NCAA probe.

“While disappointed in the court filing, the university is committed to seeking the truth and upholding our high standards of ethical conduct,” he said.

Beaty arrived at Kansas as a nondescript wide receivers coach from Texas A&M who had stints as the offensive coordinator of the Jayhawks and Rice but had never been a college head coach.

The program he inherited was in shambles following the failed tenure of Turner Gill and the abject failure of Charlie Weis, but with an abundance of energy and positivity he began to slowly improve things.

Beaty’s success on the recruiting path didn’t translate into enough wins. His team won two games in Year 2, one last season and went 3-9 last year. He watched as athletic director Sheahon Zenger — the man who had hired him — was fired largely because of the football program’s struggles.

New athletic director Jeff Long hired Les Miles, who led LSU to the 2007 national title. Miles signed a five-year contract that will pay him $2,775,000 annually with retention bonuses of $775,000 due in November 2020 and $500,000 in November 2022. The deal includes several other incentives in a sign Long plans to invest heavily in the program.

Kansas has often been labeled a “basketball school,” and rightly so given the Jayhawks’ streak of 14 consecutive Big 12 titles. But while gridiron success has been fleeting, Mark Mangino proved as recently as the 2007 season that it is possible. Kansas went 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl that year.

The current roster is better stocked than when Beaty came on board, but a massive talent gap still exists for Miles to address.

Fan apathy is at historically low levels and the school is little more than a year into a five-year, $350 million fundraising effort begun by Zenger that was supposed to earmark more than $300 million for much-needed renovations to Memorial Stadium.

Read the full statement from Marchiony below:

“The University of Kansas is aware of a court filing submitted by attorneys of former Head Football Coach David Beaty. While the university typically does not comment on pending litigation, the nature of the current matter warrants further context.

“The filing is full of false claims and factual misstatements, including that KU’s Director of Athletics made salacious comments about seeking reasons to withhold payment from Beaty.  Simply, that did not happen.

“Here are the facts.  Beaty was informed he would not be retained by KU on November 4, 2018, but would be able to coach the remaining games. Immediately following the end of the season, Kansas Athletics staff conducted standard exit interviews of all football coaches and staff, and through that process we learned of possible NCAA violations allegedly committed by Beaty. KU contacted the NCAA and the Big 12 Conference and began an investigation into the matter. Beaty refused to cooperate with the KU review and, ultimately, the NCAA took the lead in the still-ongoing investigation.

“Due to the nature of the allegations, which, if true, would be in violation of the terms of Beaty’s contract, the university has withheld payment of money owed to Beaty pending the outcome of the NCAA investigation. In a show of good faith, the university has placed the full amount owed in escrow.

“While disappointed in the court filing, the university is committed to seeking the truth and upholding our high standards of ethical conduct.”

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