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Court Documents Show Two Competing Versions Of When KU Decided To Fire Its Football Coach

Orlin Wagner
AP Photo
Former University of Kansas Head Football Coach David Beaty is suing KU Athletics for $3 million withheld by the University after Beaty was fired.

Just when did the University of Kansas decide to fire David Beaty as head football coach?

That question is at the heart of two depositions unsealed this week in the bitter federal court battle between Beaty and KU Athletics.

In a deposition taken in February, KU Athletics Director Jeff Long was unequivocal about when he decided to fire Beaty.

"Shortly before November 4th," he told Beaty's lawyer.

That was the day in 2018 after KU lost at home to Iowa State 27-3 with just 15,543 people in the stands, fewer than see most Jayhawk basketball games. 

Beaty agreed to finish that season as head coach and, per his contract, receive a $3 million payment for being fired without cause. Several months later, however, KU told Beaty it was withholding that money because it uncovered NCAA violations.

Beaty's lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in Kansas City, Kansas claims, in part, that KU was looking for an excuse to get out of paying that money.

The depositions suggest part of Beaty's legal strategy is to show Long took steps long before Nov. 4, 2018, to fire the head football coach, who ended up leading the Jayhawks to just six total wins in four seasons. 

“Prior to his firing, we met with several donors outlaying a plan to fire Coach Beaty and the·need for funds at that time,” Matthew Baty said in his deposition taken the day after Long's. At the time, Baty was director of the Williams Education Fund, the fundraising arm of KU Athletics. He has since left KU, saying in the deposition he was asked to resign by Long.

Baty testified that Long approached him about raising money to pay off Beaty's contract shortly after Long was hired on Aug. 1, 2018. 

“Did you have an understanding at that point ·in time that the funds were being specifically raised so that they could fire David Beaty?” Beaty's attorney asked.

"Correct," Baty answered.

In his own deposition, Long disputed that.

“He [Baty] was not calling them to solicit a donation to pay for the buyout of Coach Beaty,” he testified. “We have money set aside to pay for various things. One of them would have been David Beaty’s fulfillment of his contract after he was fired.”

There is also a dispute about when Long landed on Les Miles as Beaty's replacement. Long acknowledged in his deposition, and has often repeated in public statements to the media, that he has had a long relationship with Miles.

“I had conversations with Coach Miles. He’s been a friend of mine for over 30 years. In that conversation, he had expressed that should we have an opening, he’d be interested,” he said in the deposition. But Long denied he spoke to Miles in detail about the job and certainly didn't offer it to him before Beaty was fired.

Again, Baty, the fundraiser, had a vastly different recollection.

"Early on in his tenure when he started, he asked me what donors would think of a guy like Les Miles," he testified. Beaty's lawyer, Michael Lyons from Dallas, then asked Baty if he had formed "an impression" about whether Long wanted to hire Miles.

"My opinion, yes, I believe Les Miles was the number one candidate from day one," Baty said.

The battle between Beaty and KU is far from over. The two sides have been fighting over whether depositions should be released, who should be subpoenaed and what documents and records should be produced.

If no settlement is reached the trial is set for next February.

Sam Zeff is KCUR's metro reporter. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samzeff

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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