John Chavis lawsuit against LSU sent, at least for now, to federal court _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Former LSU, and now current Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis.

LSU is challenging the jurisdiction of a lawsuit filed against the school in Texas by former defensive coordinator John Chavis and is asking the court to dismiss the suit entirely.

The school filed an answer to Chavis’ lawsuit Monday in the 272nd District Court in Brazos County, Texas, claiming the squabble over the ex-coach’s buyout does not belong in a Texas court and taking a shot at Chavis’ new school, Texas A&M, in the process.

Chavis left the Tigers for the same position with the Aggies. In the documents obtained by The Advocate, LSU refers to Texas A&M’s defense as needing “dire” help. A&M has finished outside of the top 100 nationally the previous two seasons.

“The only fact implicating Texas (in the suit) is that Chavis happened to defect to Texas A&M and chose to begin working for A&M before his service to LSU was complete,” the new filing says. “Notwithstanding the Aggies dire need for defensive help, Chavis could have defected to a college or professional team in any state, or even in a foreign country.”

The latest filing continues a battle between LSU and Chavis over whether the coach owes a $400,000 buyout for breaching his contract by leaving early. Chavis and LSU both filed lawsuits regarding the topic Feb. 27.

The school, seeking the $400,000, filed its suit in the 19th Judicial Court in East Baton Rouge Parish. Chavis filed his in Brazos County, Texas, asking a judge to decide on the buyout and also grouping his new school into the suit.

Texas A&M agreed to pay any buyout Chavis owes, but the school, like Chavis, contends he doesn’t owe a buyout.

Things got uglier about a week and a half ago when both filed amendments to their suits. In an amendment to his suit, Chavis claimed LSU owes him more than $205,000 in unpaid incentives and vacation time and that the school unlawfully doctored his 2012 contract, making it void.

Meanwhile, LSU filed its own amendment — a motion of discovery — seeking answers for Chavis’ involvement with Texas A&M before A&M officially announced his hiring Feb. 13.

In the new filing Monday, the school denies Chavis’ allegations against the program, asks for Chavis’ suit to be dismissed and staunchly argues that the case should not be played out in Texas, but in Louisiana, where Chavis’ contract was executed and performed.

“This Court’s assumption of jurisdiction over LSU will offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice and will be inconsistent with the constitutional requirements of due process,” the documents say.

Another section reads, “The ink on (Chavis’) new agreement with Texas A&M is scarcely dry and, on belief and information, he has not even yet fully established residence in Texas.”

The new filing again shines the spotlight on a nasty divorce between the coach and the school that began in mid-December, when contract extension talks broke down. According to documents, Chavis said he left the program after six years because he refused to sign a new deal that included the “Les Miles clause.” The clause “would allow LSU to terminate Chavis’ employment in the event Les Miles’ employment (is) terminated with LSU,” documents say.

Chavis left for a Southeastern Conference Western Division rival. Last year, Texas A&M and LSU met for the first time in what is expected to be an annual season-ending duel in a somewhat forced rivalry, sparked by the Aggies joining the league in 2012.

There is another duel playing out in court documents.

Much of it centers on the timing of Chavis’ departure from LSU, a key matter in whether he owes his buyout to the school. If he left before Feb. 1, Chavis owes a $400,000 buyout, according to his contract. If he left after Jan. 31, he owes no buyout.

A&M and Chavis claim he did not begin work for the Aggies until Feb. 14 — despite evidence to the contrary.

Chavis is seen in a host of photos posted on social media decked in Aggies gear and recruiting for the school starting in mid-January. According to photos and reports from The Houston Chronicle, Chavis landed in a private jet with coach Kevin Sumlin on Jan. 1, two days after LSU’s Music City Bowl loss.

LSU raises these questions in the document of discovery, which includes the previously mentioned photographs of the coach on the recruiting trail and at the airport with Sumlin. The coach has 30 days to answer the questions in the discovery, which was filed about a week ago.

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.