Fired Billy Gillispie Isn’t Leaving Lexington Quietly

A couple of months ago, we theorized that the whole Billy Gillispie contract dispute had had all the makings of an ugly showdown, but that both parties might want to keep the dispute out of the public eye (especially Gillispie, who I assume wants to coach again). Well, that ain’t happening.

Billy Gillispie

Gillipsie has sued UK for the $6 million he says he’s owed under the terms of the “memorandum of (mis)understanding” he signed in 2007. The university, not merely content to defend itself against Billy’s lawsuit, has countersued Gillispie for being a giant d-bag. Unfortunately for UK, though, it looks like Gillispie might have the law on his side.

According to today’s KENTUCKYSPORTS.COM article, UK’s countersuit is asking a judge to rule that the memo of understanding doesn’t constitute a formal contract, thus absolving them from any financial commitment to Gillispie. They also claim that Gillispie was the one holding everything up as far as signing an actual contract:

UK argues that the memorandum of understanding was a temporary agreement and that university officials proposed six versions of a formal employment contract to Gillispie over the two years that he was head coach.

“Each time, counsel for Gillispie deleted or changed material terms contained in UK’s latest offer, and added new and different terms not contained in the (memorandum of understanding) or UK’s last offer,” the suit says.

Basically, UK is saying it ain’t a contract, and that it’s Billy’s own fault that he didn’t get all of this settled before he was fired. However, according to KENTUCKYSPORTS.COM’s article yesterday about Gillispie’s lawsuit, the school’s attorneys treated it as the equivalent of a contract in several instances:

The suit lays out a series of instances when UK’s attorneys referred to the memorandum of understanding as the equivalent of a legally binding contract.

For instance, a memo from UK general counsel Barbara Jones to Gillispie’s agent cited the agreement as she sought to quash an endorsement deal the coach was considering with a Houston firm. The memo said that doing so “would place Billy in violation of the terms of the April 7, 2007 Memorandum of Understanding,” the lawsuit says.

That doesn’t look particularly good for UK’s case, since it’s clear they believed the memo to be the equivalent of a contract in other situations.

Also, UK AD Mitch Barnhart is the one who approached Gillispie about the job in the first place and suggested the terms of the buyout. In fact, the buyout terms were the central part of the memo, which was signed by both men soon after Gillispie accepted the job. Barnhart apparently no longer wants to take any responsibility for negotiating that deal.

Gillispie’s lawsuit is actually aimed not at the school, but at the UK Athletics Association, which ponies up the money for these kind of things. Kentucky is somewhat laughably taking the “why are you suing our poor little athletic fund” position:

“It is unfortunate that Mr. Gillispie has sued the UK Athletics Association, a non-profit supporting foundation that was not his employer, in federal court in Texas,” UK’s statement said. “The decision to terminate Mr. Gillispie’s employment was a university decision.”

You mean the association that just came up with more than $30 million to hire John Calipari? Yeah, they’re really hurting.

Look, there’s no doubt that Kentucky had every right to fire Gillispie for his performance (and hey, SbB’s coverage of his incident with ESPN reporter Jeannine Edwards may have hastened his exit). But Billy looks like he’s got a pretty good case here, even if it might scare any major university away from hiring him in the future (and maybe he thinks his career is doomed anyway, so he better get whatever cash he can get now).