The budding rivalry between LSU and Texas A&M has moved from the football field to the courthouse.
Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis and LSU filed lawsuits against each another Friday as the sides continue to squabble over whether the former LSU assistant owes a $400,000 buyout.
The Advocate received copies of both lawsuits. LSU filed its lawsuit in the 19th Judicial Court in East Baton Rouge Parish shortly after Chavis filed suit in the 272nd District Court in Brazos County, Texas.
LSU released a statement late Friday night, saying that it will “pursue immediate dismissal of Chavis’ suit.”
“The state of Texas is not a proper venue to decide a contractual dispute between Louisiana State University and one of its former coaches, and LSU will pursue immediate dismissal of Chavis’ suit,” the statement read.
The fight, on both sides, is over a $400,000 buyout that LSU and Athletic Director Joe Alleva believe Chavis owes the school.
Chavis contends he does not owe the buyout, according to his suit. LSU, in its suit, says Chavis owes the buyout because he terminated his contract before the start of the 11th month of the deal.
Chavis’ contract, obtained by The Advocate, calls for a buyout of $400,000 if the coach leaves before Jan. 31, 2015. Chavis says his final day was Feb. 4. He says he turned in a 30-day notice to terminate the contract without cause Jan. 5.
LSU’s suit says Chavis met with Texas A&M officials and “confirmed media reports” Jan. 1 that he had been hired by the Aggies.
Chavis landed in College Station, Texas, and exited a private jet aside A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin on Jan. 1, according to reports from The Houston Chronicle. He is also seen recruiting for Texas A&M in January in photos posted on Twitter.
A&M did not announce Chavis’ hire until Feb. 13.
LSU also is suing Chavis for breaching his contract by communicating with Texas A&M without LSU’s permission, and the school says it is entitled to damages from the “reputational harm caused by Chavis’ conduct.”
The school wants a jury trial, as opposed to Chavis’ request for declaratory judgment (requiring a judge only). If LSU is not awarded the $400,000, the school is asking the court to give it compensation for “loss or departure of other coaching staff” as well as loss of “potential recruits” and “the potential adverse effect on ticket sales.”
Also, if LSU is not awarded the buyout, the school wants money for the relocation of his replacement, Kevin Steele, plus lawyers’ fees for negotiating Steele’s contract.
In his suit, Chavis also lists A&M as a defendant because the school agreed to “provide (Chavis’) obligations (from) the LSU contract. They will be responsible for that — if there are any,” A&M’s lawyer told The Houston Chronicle.
In his suit, Chavis says that once he started at A&M (on Feb. 12), the Aggies became liable for any payments owed to LSU. Chavis claims in the suit that A&M is willing to pay LSU but doesn’t believe Chavis violated his contract.
This saga between LSU and Chavis has been ongoing for more than two months, and it started a few weeks after the Aggies and Tigers — Southeastern Conference Western Division foes — met for the first time in what’s expected to be an annual season-ending duel.
The Advocate reported in December that the Aggies reached out to Chavis and that the coach had not signed a new three-year contract LSU had offered him worth $1.33 million per year.
Chavis last year was the third-highest-paid assistant in the nation, making $1.3 million in a deal that was to end in December 2015. A&M is giving Chavis a three-year, $5 million deal ($1.67 million per year) with a fourth-year option, according to FootballScoop.com. A source said Chavis will make $1.5 million in his first year at A&M.
LSU’s battle for Chavis’ buyout began on New Year’s Day, when the coach landed in College Station, an event photographed and written about by The Houston Chronicle.
On Jan. 2, Alleva sent a letter to Chavis requesting the coach pay a $400,000 buyout, according to documents obtained by The Advocate. Alleva gave Chavis a deadline of Jan. 16 to decide on one of two payment options for the buyout.
Chavis returned to Baton Rouge to clean out his office Jan. 5, according to multiple sources. That’s the same day he officially delivered his 30-day notice.
Elizabeth Crisp contributed to this report.