Let me state something right away. This is small potatoes. Mike Haywood isn’t pursuing legal action for his full contract. Insane claims or anything that would get him laughed out of court — like say being reinstated as Pitt head coach or getting paid $7.5 million over 5-years. He is “only” seeking the $300,000
severance from his deal with Pitt Pitt was to pay on his behalf to Miami (OH) for his contract buyout. [Correction made, as Pitt Script clarifies that aspect.]
It will get a lot more attention because, a) it is late-June and still more than a month before camps even open; b) it recalls the chaos and mess of the arrest and subsequent firing; and c) it was made public because Haywood’s people publicized it.
And just when I thought my day couldn’t get any worse, I returned home and decided to check my e-mail only to find a press release sent out by attorneys and a public relation’s person on behalf of Michael Haywood – yeah, THAT Michael Haywood — stating that he has asked the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and other state and federal agencies to look into the university’s firing of him.
Press releases to the media helps to explain why it is all over wires and media outlets.
This should not be a surprise. Mike Haywood’s only comments after getting released from St. Joseph County police custody on January 1, 2011:
“It isn’t fair,” Haywood told the Tribune-Review in a telephone interview. “The truth will eventually come out.”
The “truth” was that his felony domestic battery charge was never expected by any realistic person to be what he would be convicted or would plead to in the end — especially when she indicated a short time after the incident that she would not exactly be helpful at any trial. She submitted court papers saying she did not consider Haywood a danger to herself or their son, and claiming that the police report contained errors as to what was said.
At his hearing, Haywood — a first time offender — was admitted to a diversionary program that will clear his record.
At a pretrial hearing in February, Haywood did admit to grabbing the woman during the altercation, which was over custody of their young son, and that she got hurt when she fell down trying to get away from him.
But he was given the option of having the charges dropped in a year if he lived up to the terms of a pre-trial diversion agreement with the court. The terms included a psychological evaluation, possible anger management counseling and 60 hours of community service by February, 2012.
These facts, effectively dissolve the press released statement from Haywood’s attorney:
“In their rush to judgment, Pitt officials did not bother to contact the alleged victim or even the coach himself. I believe the university violated its contract with the coach, the university’s employment procedures, and the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Had Pitt conducted even a cursory investigation, it would have determined that the alleged incident simply did not occur as reported, and the termination would not have occurred. We are exploring other motives for Pitt’s firing of Coach Haywood.”
Haywood’s record may eventually be cleared with all charges dropped, but in admitting to grabbing the victim, he essentially admitted to an assault on a woman. No battery. No felony action. Maybe not even criminal assault, but by any legal definition: assault. And you can bet, that would still have been enough for his termination.
The argument itself is essentially silly. Pitt fired Haywood right afterwards. There was no investigation because the firing was based on contract language — which is why Haywood is essentially arguing for only severance pay.
Now Haywood and his attorney are not seeking redress in the courts yet. They have to jump through administrative and procedural hoops. That is why they are requesting the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission among others look at the matter first. If they filed a court case right away it would be tossed for failing to exhaust administrative and agency remedies.
The fact that this was then sent out as a press release to media outlets is something else. That was done to draw attention to the case. Why? To try and force Pitt to negotiate a settlement.
Pitt may be on solid legal ground with everything they did (and I suspect they are). But does the University want to spend the money on dealing with this, and any subsequent court case.
On top of that, do they want the attention? After all, once any agency investigations conclude and would likely dismiss all claims. Then Haywood’s attorneys could pursue the court case — and Pitt would face a new round of attention on something they probably would like everyone to forget occurred.
Is that enough to push Pitt to negotiate a settlement? I don’t know. I suspect there will be some talks, but unless Haywood is willing to settle for $100K or less, expect this to pop up once more in the news cycle in a few months with the conclusions of the agency investigations.