Williams hiring case will start in state Supreme Court in May

The University of Minnesota appealed in November a $1 million award to Jimmy Williams.

Andrew Krammer

The Minnesota Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments May 3 to review last year’s verdict that awarded Jimmy Williams $1 million after the University of Minnesota’s athletic department recanted a job offer to serve under Tubby Smith as an assistant coach in 2007.

When the University announced it would appeal to the state’s highest court in November, General Counsel Mark Rotenberg released a statement saying that, if allowed to stand, the $1 million lawsuit against Smith and the University “has the potential to harm the University now and in the future.”

In December, Williams’ attorneys released a statement asking the court to deny the University’s appeal, claiming it was an attempt to further drag out the process.

“That the University would risk turning this case into something it is not simply to invoke one more judicial forum in which to litigate Mr. Williams may speak to the University’s motivations,” attorney Donald Chance Mark Jr. said in the statement.

Williams was an assistant coach at Oklahoma State University in the spring of 2007 when Smith, who was hired to coach Minnesota in March 2007, contacted Williams to offer a potential job.

Athletics director Joel Maturi, citing Williams’ previous NCAA violations when he was an assistant at Minnesota from 1971 to 1986, denied Smith’s decision to hire Williams.

Williams had already formally quit his job at Oklahoma State when he heard of Maturi’s decision, and subsequently sued Smith and the University.

“The University needs to be able to hire the right people for the right jobs,” Rotenberg said when announcing the appeal in November. “This individual, who had a history of multiple serious NCAA violations in the basketball program, was not considered the right guy for the job.”