Court: U to pay $1M for Tubby’s hasty hire

Head basketball coach Tubby Smith promised an assistant coaching job to Jimmy Williams in 2007.

Andrew Krammer

The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld Monday a judgment that the University of Minnesota must pay Jimmy Williams $1 million after head basketball coach Tubby Smith wrongly promised him an assistant coaching job in 2007.

The court dismissed the UniversityâÄôs appeal of a Hennepin County juryâÄôs decision from May 2010 that Smith misrepresented his authority to offer Williams a job on his coaching staff when Smith came to the University in 2007.

University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said he is looking into appealing the case to the Minnesota Supreme Court. The University has 30 days to appeal.

âÄúThis amount is clearly excessive,âÄù Rotenberg said. âÄúEven if you assume heâÄôs out two years of income, you donâÄôt get $1 million for that. ThatâÄôs valuable public funds he is getting.âÄù

Williams was an assistant coach at Oklahoma State University in the spring of 2007. Smith, who was hired to coach at the University in March 2007, contacted Williams to offer him an assistant coaching job in early April of that year. Smith offered him a salary and benefits package of $200,000 per year.

Williams accepted his offer, put his house up for sale and told then-Oklahoma State head coach Sean Sutton heâÄôd be leaving the team.

But University athletic director Joel Maturi trumped SmithâÄôs decision and refused to hire Williams, citing WilliamsâÄô previous NCAA violations when he was an assistant at the University from 1971 to 1986.

Williams had already formally quit his job at Oklahoma State when he got word of MaturiâÄôs decision and sued Smith and the University.

âÄúMr. Williams has experienced four and a half years of financial hardship,âÄù WilliamsâÄô attorney wrote in a statement Monday. âÄúWe hope the University of Minnesota will make the only sensible decision left and conclude this case now without further litigation.âÄù

A Hennepin County jury originally awarded Williams $1.25 million, but that was dropped to $1 million because Smith was acting on behalf of the University âÄî state law mandates that the liability of its employees canâÄôt exceed the amount of its liability insurance. The University maintains a $1 million liability insurance policy

The Court of Appeals rejected WilliamsâÄô argument against the decrease of the award.