Fi­nal deal gives Bielema $11.9M over three years

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - ERIC BESSON AND AZIZA MUSA

The non­profit Ra­zor­back Foun­da­tion has agreed to pay for­mer head foot­ball coach Bret Bielema up to $11.9 mil­lion over three years, or roughly twice what the terms of his pub­lic em­ploy­ment con­tract pre­scribed, the foun­da­tion an­nounced Tues­day.

Bielema’s buy­out agree­ment, fi­nal­ized two months af­ter he was fired, set­tles a dis­par­ity be­tween the coach’s con­tract with the Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville and a sep­a­rate agree­ment with the foun­da­tion. Based on when he was fired, the two agree­ments set his sev­er­ance pay at $5.9 mil­lion and $15.4 mil­lion, re­spec­tively.

“The orig­i­nal agree­ments were drafted by two dif­fer­ent par­ties, and any dis­crep­ancy be­tween the two was ul­ti­mately ne­go­ti­ated by the Foun­da­tion,” Univer­sity of Arkansas Sys­tem spokesman Nate Hinkel said. “Ul­ti­mately

you’d like to have match­ing doc­u­ments when the terms of their con­tent are be­ing ex­e­cuted, but in this case there was a ques­tion about which one was in play and it was ne­go­ti­ated by the ap­pro­pri­ate party.”

The booster-funded Ra­zor­back Foun­da­tion, which sup­ports univer­sity ath­let­ics, is re­spon­si­ble for up to $18.6 mil­lion in buyouts re­lated to re­cent ath­letic depart­ment turnover. Aside from Bielema’s agree­ment, the non­profit also has com­mit­ted to pay up to $4.6 mil­lion to buy out for­mer Ath­letic Director Jeff Long’s con­tract and up to $2 mil­lion to South­ern Methodist Univer­sity to se­cure Bielema’s re­place­ment, Chad Mor­ris.

The non­profit also helps the UA pay some ath­letic depart­ment salaries and has pledged tens of mil­lions in do­na­tions to­ward the ex­pan­sion and ren­o­va­tion of Ra­zor­back Sta­dium.

Ra­zor­back Foun­da­tion Ex­ec­u­tive Director Scott Varady said in a printed state­ment that Bielema’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives “co­op­er­ated in de­vel­op­ing the nec­es­sary mech­a­nisms” to cal­cu­late Bielema’s buy­out, which will be paid in monthly in­stall­ments. The two sides also worked to­gether on the lan­guage to lessen the sum based on the coach’s fu­ture earn­ings.

Varady, cit­ing a busy sched­ule, said he was not im­me­di­ately avail­able Tues­day evening to an­swer ques­tions. Bielema and his agent, Neil Corn­rich, did not re­spond to phone mes­sages.

The UA fired Bielema on Nov. 24 af­ter the Ra­zor­backs lost their sea­son fi­nale to the Univer­sity of Mis­souri, seal­ing a 4-8 sea­son and a 29-34 record over his five-year ten­ure at UA.

Bielema’s dis­missal came nine days af­ter UA sev­ered ties with Long. The univer­sity re­placed Long with Hunter Yu­rachek from the Univer­sity of Houston.

Un­der Bielema’s “re­lease and waiver agree­ment,” he must “dili­gently” seek to find an­other job and give the foun­da­tion a writ­ten re­port of his at­tempts to do so ev­ery six

months through the end of 2020.

His buy­out pay­ments from the foun­da­tion will be re­duced should he find other em­ploy­ment ath­let­ics-re­lated or not, in­clud­ing con­sult­ing fees, fees re­ceived as an in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tor or any other in­come or com­pen­sa­tion “of any kind what­so­ever.”

The non­profit has guar­an­teed Bielema $525,000 in vary­ing an­nual sums through Dec. 31, 2020, re­gard­less of whether he gets an­other job.

Af­ter each cal­en­dar year, the par­ties will meet within 60 days for a “rec­on­cil­i­a­tion” of any out­stand­ing amounts owed to either Bielema or the foun­da­tion.

Long is due $4.6 mil­lion in to­tal sev­er­ance pay through June 2022, ac­cord­ing to a re­lease agree­ment he signed Nov. 24 with the UA. That sum would be off­set by wages Long earns as an ad­min­is­tra­tor or con­sul­tant for a univer­sity or pro­fes­sional sports team, ac­cord­ing to the deal.

Sim­i­lar to Long’s re­lease agree­ment, the for­mer head coach’s agree­ment states that nei­ther party will make dis­parag­ing re­marks about Bielema; the foun­da­tion; its di­rec­tors, of­fi­cers and em­ploy­ees; or the Univer­sity of Arkansas; or its govern­ing board, its of­fi­cers, rep­re­sen­ta­tives and em­ploy­ees. If asked, both par­ties are to say “that any dif­fer­ences be­tween or among them were re­solved on an am­i­ca­ble ba­sis.”

Bielema’s orig­i­nal con­tract in 2012 with UA listed a chart with buy­out amounts and in­cluded lan­guage that the fig­ures in the chart should be plugged into a for­mula. His con­tract ex­ten­sion in 2015 laid out a new chart with higher fig­ures but main­tained that “all other text, terms and con­di­tions … shall re­main the same.”

The for­mula says to take the amount listed as the guar­anty pay­ment iden­ti­fied in the chart and to di­vide that by “the num­ber of months of the Term of the Em­ploy­ment Agree­ment.” The for­mula then says to take that amount and mul­ti­ply it by the num­ber of months re­main­ing on the con­tract.

Un­der that for­mula, the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette took the $15.4 mil­lion listed in the chart and di­vided it by 97 — the span of Bielema’s em­ploy­ment from Dec. 4, 2012, through the end of his most re­cent con­tract, Dec. 31, 2020, which is what his amended con­tract de­scribes as the em­ploy­ment-agree­ment term.

The news­pa­per then took that value and mul­ti­plied by 37 — a rough fig­ure that in­cluded the month of De­cem­ber 2017 and the re­main­ing three years of Bielema’s con­tract. It to­taled $5.87 mil­lion.

Bielema en­tered into a “per­sonal ser­vices and guar­anty agree­ment” with the Ra­zor­back Foun­da­tion on Feb. 6, 2015, just more than a month af­ter the Ra­zor­backs beat the Univer­sity of Texas 31-7 in the Texas Bowl and the same day Bielema’s con­tract ex­ten­sion went into ef­fect with UA.

The per­sonal ser­vices agree­ment made no ref­er­ence to a for­mula.

In­stead, that agree­ment has a chart list­ing that the coach is owed $15.4 mil­lion if he is fired for con­ve­nience in 2017. It also states, “the amount spec­i­fied in this para­graph shall be the to­tal amount that will be paid by the Foun­da­tion to Bielema.”

For­mer Ra­zor­back Foun­da­tion Ex­ec­u­tive Director Sean Rochelle signed Bielema’s 2015 agree­ment with the foun­da­tion. Univer­sity of Arkansas Sys­tem Pres­i­dent Don­ald Bob­bitt, UA-Fayet­teville in­terim Chan­cel­lor Daniel Fer­ri­tor and Long signed his con­tract ex­ten­sion.

Re­peated at­tempts to reach Rochelle over the past month have been un­suc­cess­ful. Long, through his at­tor­ney, has de­clined in­ter­view re­quests.

Bielema’s “re­lease and waiver agree­ment,” which fi­nal­izes his buy­out terms with the foun­da­tion, re­lied on a for­mula to de­ter­mine his sev­er­ance pay. A news re­lease says it “rep­re­sents the com­bined value” of what the UA and the Ra­zor­back Foun­da­tion would have paid Bielema from the date of his dis­missal through Dec. 31, 2020.

Foun­da­tion of­fi­cials and Bielema’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives took the to­tal amount of the guar­anty pay­ment at the time of Bielema’s ter­mi­na­tion — $15.4 mil­lion, as listed in both his pub­lic em­ploy­ment agree­ment and his per­sonal ser­vices agree­ment — and di­vided that amount by “the to­tal num­ber of months cov­ered by that sum,” which they listed as 48 be­gin­ning Jan. 1, 2017, to Dec. 31, 2020.

They then took that prod­uct — $320,833.33 — and mul­ti­plied it by the re­main­ing num­ber of months on the term of his amended con­tract, 37 months and a week. The par­ties came up with a to­tal of $11.935 mil­lion.

The value Bielema and the foun­da­tion placed into the for­mula — the to­tal num­ber of months cov­ered by the guar­anty pay­ment — dif­fered from the lan­guage in Bielema’s univer­sity con­tract, which said to use the num­ber of months in the term of em­ploy­ment.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/CHAR­LIE KAIJO

Bret Bielema works dur­ing the sec­ond half of the Arkansas-Mis­souri game at Fayet­teville on Nov. 24, the day he was fired as the Ra­zor­backs’ head coach.


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