UMass, Northeastern reach settlement over coach
June 25, 2004
SportsLine.com wire reports
BOSTON -- The University of Massachusetts agreed to suspend football coach Don Brown for this season's first three games and issued a public apology to Northeastern for recruiting and hiring him away, all part of a settlement ending a lawsuit.
Northeastern said Friday it will receive $150,000 from UMass for the cost of recruiting a replacement for Brown, who was under contract to Northeastern when he agreed in February to take over at its Atlantic 10 rival. A UMass spokesman would not confirm the compensation.
"In retrospect, I realize that what we at UMass did was wrong, and certainly could have been handled in a much more constructive and less confrontational manner," Chancellor John V. Lombardi said in a statement.
In February, the Minutemen hired Brown to replace Mark Whipple, who was hired as quarterbacks coach by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brown was Whipple's defensive coordinator at Massachusetts for two seasons before taking the head coaching job at Northeastern in 2000.
Northeastern obtained an injunction preventing Brown from coaching, claiming a breach of contract. Superior Court Judge Thomas E. Connolly found that Brown "willfully and intentionally breached his contract" and that UMass-Amherst "actively induced the breach."
Brown was under contract to coach Northeastern through 2008. He was required to obtain approval from the school before negotiating or accepting other jobs.
The injunction was later lifted after the sides agreed to work out a compromise.
"All along we have believed that a contract is a two-way street and should be viewed that way," Northeastern athletic director Dave O'Brien said. "The court's decision and the settlement are reflective of that principle."
Northeastern has since hired former Temple assistant R.E. "Rocky" Hager, who won two Division II championships at North Dakota State.
Lombardi's statement, which UMass spokesmen said was vetted through school lawyers, said the school "will undertake to suspend" Brown from coaching the first three games. UMass opens its season Sept. 4 at Delaware State, then returns home to Amherst for games Sept. 11 against Colgate and Sept. 18 against Richmond.
Northeastern and UMass meet in November.