LSU scored a major victory against Texas A&M — on a Friday afternoon in the middle of August — but John Chavis’ attorneys are vowing to fight back and plan to do it during football season.
Texas judge Travis Bryan III dismissed Chavis’ suit against LSU on Friday, tossing out the case on grounds of jurisdiction and sending the legal squabble between the school and its former defensive coordinator to Baton Rouge.
“LSU is very happy with the result, and we believe it is the correct result,” said Bob Barton, a lawyer representing LSU.
The case will now be decided in Louisiana, a home-field advantage for Athletic Director Joe Alleva and the Tigers. Chavis attorneys plan to appeal the decision, said Jill Craft, the coach’s attorney in the Louisiana case.
Still, Friday is a significant victory for LSU in the now six-month legal battle between Chavis and a football program he helped lead to 71 wins in six years. His stunning departure to Texas A&M after last season sparked dueling lawsuits — Chavis’ in Texas and LSU’s in Louisiana — regarding the coach’s buyout, both filed hours apart in February.
Chavis isn’t backing down after Friday’s ruling. He plans to continue the fight against his former employer, Craft said in a statement released to The Advocate. Athletic administrators and football coaches will likely be deposed during the football season, which begins in two weeks.
“We are looking forward to proving that coach Chavis never had a contract with LSU, and whatever he signed was altered by the Board of Supervisors after he signed it. Any first-year law student can tell you that means there is no contract,” Craft said. “In that regard, unfortunately, we will have to take the depositions of those on the coaching staff and athletic department who were involved as well as the Board of Supervisors. Given our schedules, I would anticipate those depositions to occur some time in the fall.”
The school said Chavis owes $400,000 for breaking his contract early, while Chavis and Texas A&M claim he does not. A&M is on the hook for any buyout money owed LSU.
Chavis, in his lawsuit, also claimed LSU owed him more than $200,000 in unpaid vacation pay and academic compensation, and he says a high-ranking LSU athletic department official altered his contract, making it void.
“At the end of the day,” Craft said, “I fully expect coach Chavis to be exonerated of all of the ridiculous rumors and allegations that have been made against him. He’s a man of integrity.”
Attorneys in both cases have spent much of the past few months arguing over the venue for the suit — Texas or Louisiana — and want the other’s case dismissed or stopped.
LSU won the first battle fought in a Louisiana courtroom between the university and Chavis in June. Judge Timothy Kelly, an LSU graduate and football season-ticket holder, denied Chavis’ request to stay LSU’s suit against him in Louisiana until the Texas case is resolved.
Kelly’s ruling was the latest movement in the case in Louisiana. Discovery and depositions could begin soon.
What’s also creeping up: the start of college football season. This case seems miles from a resolution.
As of last week, there had been no negotiations between the two parties, a source said. Meanwhile, the two schools meet on the field at Tiger Stadium on Nov. 28 in what’s expected to be a yearly clash to end the regular season in a budding rivalry.
New Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey danced around questions about the suit over the summer but said, “It’s not the conversation I want to be having.”
The divorce between the coach and the school — at times messy — began in December, when contract extension talks broke down. Chavis said in court documents that he left the program after six years because he refused to sign a new deal that included the “Les Miles clause.” It “would allow LSU to terminate Chavis’ employment in the event Les Miles’ employment (is) terminated with LSU,” documents show.
The saga has no end in sight. There is a disconnect between the two, one court document put it, regarding the buyout.
The parties have made bitter filings since the lawsuits were filed Feb. 27.
LSU took a swipe at A&M’s struggling defense in one document in March, saying the program “was in dire need of defensive help.” In its latest filings, the school claims that Chavis and his lawyers “disputed or otherwise avoided service” of LSU’s petition of damages for more than two weeks.
It forced the school to serve Chavis with documents at his vacation home in Tennessee, documents say.
LSU served Chavis with a motion of discovery March 13, seeking answers for his involvement with Texas A&M before A&M officially announced his hiring on Feb. 13. He was seen in Aggies gear recruiting for the school in photos posted by recruits on social media. LSU, in recent documents, claims Chavis has “refused to answer” the discovery.
Chavis, meanwhile, levied a serious accusation against an unknown LSU athletic department employee or board member, claiming the person altered his contract after he signed it and before the LSU Board of Supervisors approved it.
Chavis’ suit refers to the doctored version of the contract as “the Alleva amendment,” and the suit says the contract was “intentionally altered.” The coach had also claimed LSU withheld $90,000 of academic incentives and $115,000 in unpaid vacation time.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.