LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas’ long legal battle with former football head coach David Beaty is over.
KU on Friday night announced it has settled with Beaty, who was fired near the conclusion of the 2018 season. The settlement will send Beaty a sum of $2.55 million and end all litigation and disputes, the university announced in a news release.
"Despite the settlement, the University maintains that the facts and principles behind its position remain intact," KU said in a statement. "For the betterment of KU, and driven by a willingness to move forward during a time of uncertainty in college athletics, the University has now put this matter behind us."
At the time of his firing, Beaty appeared in line for a $3 million buyout per the terms of his contract. KU, however, discovered potential NCAA infractions during end-of-season exit interviews with assistants — namely that then-video coordinator Jeff Love had given impermissible coaching instruction to the team’s quarterbacks.
Those discoveries were self-reported by KU and ultimately led to a Level II violation that has been leveled against the football program as part of the notice of allegations the university received from the NCAA in September 2019.
KU retroactively withheld Beaty’s buyout, and in March 2019, Beaty filed a lawsuit against the university, alleging athletic department officials were actively looking for ways to get out of the $3 million payment.
Michael P. Lyons, a Dallas-based trial lawyer representing Beaty in the lawsuit, said in an interview with The Topeka Capital-Journal that Beaty and his family are happy to have this matter behind them.
"This has been an extremely challenging time for David and Raynee Beaty," Lyons said. "I think this is a victory not only for the Beaty family but for college coaches everywhere. The current trend of backtracking on your contractual obligations in an effort to find a way not to pay these contracted buyouts, I think not only is that a growing trend but I think this is an example of what not to do. I think the settlement speaks for itself."
All funds for the settlement will come from the original sum placed in escrow during the first fiscal year following Beaty’s firing, KU announced.
Beaty was the head coach at KU for four seasons, compiling a 6-42 record. He was replaced by Les Miles. A Kansas City Star report midway through Miles’ first season provided video of multiple analysts and other non-coaching assistants under the first-year Jayhawk coach giving impermissible instruction, which led to a Level III violation in an amended version of the notice of allegations delivered by the NCAA.
Beaty’s legal team appeared to score multiple key wins in recent months.
In late April, U.S. Magistrate Judge Gwynne Birzer in Wichita ruled practice film and other raw footage from the "Miles To Go" documentary-style series following Miles’ first season could be subpoenaed and submitted as evidence. And with the Jayhawk men’s basketball program itself facing five Level I violations, Beaty’s team had subpoenaed former Adidas fixer T.J. Gassnola, compelling him to testify and perhaps add new headaches for KU in that ongoing fight with the NCAA.
Instead, the legal proceeding over Beaty’s payout will not happen. Asked why now was the right time for Beaty to settle, Lyons stated one should first ask KU for that answer.
"I think it has a lot to do with the fight that Kansas has in front of the NCAA," Lyons continued. "(Additionally), I would say Kansas has essentially paid more money by settling the claim for $2.55 million dollars plus all their attorney fees, and they’ve subjected themselves to a lot of scrutiny before the NCAA unnecessarily, and I’ll let the court of public opinion gauge whether or not this entire endeavor makes sense.
"In my opinion, let this be sort of an example for other institutions that may be thinking whether or not this is a good course to take. I think if Kansas was being honest it would say that this was not a prudent move on their part."
Beaty has not held a coaching position since his termination from KU.
"David Beaty maintains that the allegations that precipitated this are contrived," Lyons said. "David has never knowingly been involved in any NCAA violation in the history of his tenure as a coach in college football. Unfortunately for David he has to deal with the NCAA side of this now."