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KU Added Legal Safeguards In New Head Football Coach's Contract, Hoping To Avoid Les Miles Repeat

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Greg Echlin
/
KCUR
One of the larger crowds in the two-year Les Miles era gathered at KU for the 2019 in-state rivalry game against Kansas State. KU won three games in '19, but was winless in nine games last year, a record fans hope new head coach Lance Leipold will reverse.

The University of Kansas may have set a precedent with legal safeguards in the contract for its new head football coach Lance Leipold.

The record of 3-18 over two years was disappointing enough under Les Miles during his time at the University of Kansas. But when reports of alleged sexual improprieties emerged from Miles' previous coaching days at LSU, KU made a costly decision that resulted in his exit.

But when the Jayhawks hired Lance Leipold from the University of Buffalo, KU took steps to protect itself legally. Milwaukee-based attorney Martin Greenberg says the new contract will likely set a trend for future coaching contracts.

“I have never seen anything as stringent as what I looked at as the quote-unquote “Les Miles” clause,” said Greenberg, who examined Leipold’s new six-year deal worth $16.5 million after Leipold’s formal introduction at KU in early May.

Greenberg has pored over hundreds of coaching contracts as the founder of the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette University.

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Martin Greenberg
Martin Greenberg is the founder of the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette University. During his 35 years at the Institute, he has reviewed hundreds of contracts.

The “Les Miles” clause that Greenberg refers to is actually phrased as “representations and warranties,” common language in coaching contracts, but with nothing as explicitly outlined as Leipold’s deal with KU against any sexual improprieties that may have taken place before he started his current task of turning around the Jayhawk football program.

Greenberg said KU has covered all the bases.

“You get accused, you get retaliated, you’re engaging, you’re found guilty, you haven’t trained, you’ve entered into a settlement agreement, you forgot to report…They (the KU administration) have covered the waterfront here with respect to sexual misconduct or sexual harassment behavior,” he said.

KU athletics director Travis Goff, a recent hire himself after previously working as an athletics assistant at Northwestern University, tabbed Leipold as his first head football coach hiring.

When asked during Leipold’s introductory news conference if he had used the “representations and warranties” phrase in prior coaching contracts outside football, Goff responded, “I don’t know if I can say that. I think it’s becoming a more standard way to go about that.”

Goff succeeded Jeff Long, who stepped down the day after addressing Miles’ departure in a news conference. KU paid Long $1.375 million in a buyout just after settling with Miles to shell out more than $1.9 million for the remainder of his contract.

The question that hovered over Long was whether or not he did his due diligence when hiring Miles, who was part of an independent investigation conducted on a larger scope by the law firm Husch-Blackwell into alleged sexual improprieties at LSU. The university paid the law firm to conduct an inquiry after USA Today published results of its own investigation.

Miles is first mentioned on page 47 of the Husch-Blackwell report under the heading “Tone at the Top in Athletics.” The report cited a statement given by Sharon Lewis, a longtime employee in LSU’s football operations, that “chronicled significant alleged misconduct by the then-most powerful person in the athletics department (and perhaps the university), LSU football coach Les Miles, from approximately 2009 until Miles’ departure in 2016.”

From reading the provisions in Leipold’s contract as the successor to Miles, Greenberg said it’s clear that the "tone" at the top at KU is set by leadership above the football coach.

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