The Firm . Ex-football coach Haywood files lawsuit against Pitt


Ex-football coach Haywood files lawsuit against Pitt

Former Pitt football coach Michael Haywood filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, alleging the school breached his contract and violated federal law when it fired him in January following his arrest for felony domestic battery.

The lawsuit contends Beth Marriot, the mother of Haywood's 21-month-old son, was attempting to prevent him from seeing his son Dec. 31, 2010, at the home he owns in South Bend, Ind.

When Marriot grabbed Haywood's shoulder and tried to pull him away from his son, he pushed her hand off him, and she slipped in slush in the garage, with Haywood catching her before she hit the floor, the suit claims.

Marriot called police, and Haywood spent the night in St. Joseph County jail before he was released the next day after posting a $100,000 bond.

Haywood's attorney, Tony Buzbee of Houston, said charges are pending but are subject to dismissal if Haywood avoids future criminal activity.

Haywood was hired by Pitt on Dec. 15 and given a base annual salary of $1 million per year for five years, plus $500,000 for services relating to marketing contracts and media events. He also was to receive a country club membership, vehicle and other fringe benefits and conditional performance bonuses totalling $300,000 per year.

Buzbee said he met with Pitt executive vice chancellor Jerry Cochran earlier this year at the Cathedral of Learning in an attempt to resolve the matter out of court. Haywood initially was seeking only the $300,000 buyout of his contract with Miami (Ohio), where he coached before he was hired by Pitt.

"I talked to these people until I'm blue in the face," Buzbee said. "We gave them every opportunity to try to resolve the matter, and they just pretty much weren't interested."

Pitt officials declined comment.

Highlights of the lawsuit are:

Haywood is asking for $3.75 million in damages that relate to a clause in Haywood's five-year contract with Pitt. The clause states that if Haywood is fired "without just cause," it must pay him $750,000 per year.

The suit claims Pitt has refused to honor an agreement to buy out Haywood's Miami contract.

The suit claims Pitt denied Haywood due process by refusing to hear his explanation before firing him.

The suit claims recent allegations in the South Bend area that the Notre Dame football team received special treatment from authorities prompted Haywood's arrest.

Buzbee said Haywood, who presently holds a sales position with an energy company in Houston, wants to coach again and was attempting to avoid filing a lawsuit.

"Coach didn't want to be in a lawsuit, still doesn't, but there is something to be said for principle," Buzbee said.


Jerry DiPaola
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
September 20, 2011