Bret Bielema sues Arkansas' Razorback Foundation for $7 million for allegedly reneging on buyout agreement

Jack Baer
·4-min read

Now entering his second season as an NFL position coach, former Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema has entered a legal battle against his former employer.

The current outside linebackers coach for the New York Giants filed a lawsuit against Arkansas’ Razorback Foundation on Friday demanding $7,025,000 in payment for an alleged breach of Bielema’s buyout agreement, per Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel.

An attorney representing the Razorback Foundation soon responded to the lawsuit, calling it a preemptive strike in a looming legal battle and saying that the Foundation had requested Bielema return the highly specific $4,555,833.29 already paid to him, citing claims of multiple breaches on Bielema’s part.

Bielema was fired by Arkansas in the minutes immediately following the end of a 4-8 season in 2017. The coach and school eventually agreed to a reported $12 million buyout agreement, to be paid in monthly installments of $320,833.33 per month through December 2020.

According to both Bielema and the foundation, that’s not exactly how it worked out.

Bret Bielema alleges Razorback Foundation breached buyout agreement

In his lawsuit, Bielema accused the Razorback Foundation of bad-faith efforts to renege on the agreement, unsubstantiated claims of breaches on Bielema’s part and basically sabotaging Bielema’s shot at another head coaching job.

The Razorback Foundation appeared to start this all late last year when it reportedly claimed Bielema failed to meet the requirements for his buyout and requested he repay $4.2 million to the foundation. Bielema obviously declined to do so.

The Razorback Foundation’s statement responding to the lawsuit appears confirmed that report.

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema walks on the sideline in the second half of an NCAA college football game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. LSU won 33-10. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Bret Bielema's Arkansas tenure ended badly. Now, it could get ugly. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

This all comes down to a reported provision in Bielema’s agreement that salary he would receive in post-Arkansas coaching jobs would be removed from the amount owed by the Razorback Foundation. Bielema would later land jobs as a consultant and defensive line coach for the New England Patriots before the Giants gig.

Razorback Foundation president Scott Varady reportedly believed Bielema’s $150,000 salary as the Patriots defensive line coach — incidentally the maximum he was reportedly allowed to make without it coming out of his Arkansas checks — was below the market value of such a job and that Bielema was breaching the agreement.

In addressing those allegations, Bielema’s lawyers cited former Tennessee head coach Butch Jones, who was fired just a few weeks before Bielema. Bielema pointed to his salary being far larger than Jones’ corresponding income as an analyst and assistant at Alabama, with no complaint from Tennessee.

Clearly, this could be the start of an ugly battle, with at least three SEC programs and two NFL teams directly or indirectly involved. We’ll have to wait and see what comes of it, and if we see a similar battle again in two years.

The full lawsuit can be seen below.

Bret A. Bielema vs. The Razorback Foundation, Inc.

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