Monday, May 09, 2011

K-State, Prince reach settlement

May 6, 2011

By Austin Meek

After two years of litigation, Kansas State University has settled its lawsuit against former football coach Ron Prince.

Prince will receive a settlement worth $1.65 million, roughly half the value of his $3.2 million buyout agreement.

That so-called secret agreement, discovered by the university in May 2009, sparked a prolonged legal battle between the school and its former coach. Prince, now an assistant with the Indianapolis Colts, is relieved to have closure, one of his attorneys said Friday.

"This case was difficult on him," said attorney Jim Neale, of Charlottesville, Va. "I think he did feel on some level betrayed."

With a June 13 trial date looming, both sides had incentive to settle. Neale said negotiations gained momentum after Riley County District Court Judge David Stutzman denied summary judgment motions from both parties, leaving a settlement as the only alternative.

"Nobody wants to spend a week in court in with lawyers," Neale said. "The prospect of a trial was expensive and stressful. It's the last thing in the world anyone wants to do."

As part of the settlement, K-State released a statement absolving Prince of wrongdoing in the negotiation of his $3.2 million memorandum of understanding.

"Neither the university nor K-State Athletics contends or believes that in negotiation (of) his employment agreement or the MOU, coach Prince engaged in any wrongful or unethical conduct," the statement read. "Discovery has demonstrated that this situation was not of coach Prince's making."

Prince's agent, Neil Cornrich, described the public statement as "an extraordinary step," and Neale said it was a major factor in Prince's decision to settle.

"He's very happy to have K-State make the statement they did about him not doing anything wrong," Neale said. "It's unusual, if not extraordinary, to resolve a civil litigation with a statement like that."

The MOU called for Prince to receive deferred payments of $800,000 in 2015 and 2016 and $1.6 million in 2020. Prince will receive the $1.65 million as a lump sum, a stipulation that made the settlement more attractive.

"Discounted to present value, the $1.65 million settlement figure essentially represents almost the entire $3.2 million termination payment," Cornrich said in a statement. "Coach Prince will receive these funds up front and almost nine years earlier than they were originally due, providing a significant financial advantage over the deferred payments."

K-State athletic director John Currie said the settlement will be paid with Big 12 and NCAA revenue instead of private donations or ticket revenue. K-State has earmarked its share of the conference withdrawal fees to be paid by Nebraska and Colorado to offset the expense.

"We are glad to close this chapter and focus our energies on building upon the terrific 2010-11 year Kansas State student-athletes have had both on the playing field and in the classroom," Currie said in a statement.

Prince received a $1.2 million buyout when he was fired in November 2008. Six months later, the school discovered the $3.2 million addendum, signed by Prince and former athletic director Bob Krause. K-State sued to invalidate the agreement, arguing Krause acted outside his authority in negotiations.

Neale questioned the wisdom of the lawsuit, which was filed before Currie and President Kirk Schulz arrived at K-State.

"I don't understand why they filed suit," Neale said. "It's never been clear to me. I don't know why they didn't just pick up the phone and talk to coach Prince and quietly try to negotiate."

After two years and nearly $400,000 in legal fees, K-State is happy to move forward.

"We are pleased to have this matter resolved," Schulz said. “We appreciate the work that our university counsel has provided during this process and can now maintain focus on moving forward as a university community.”

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