Former University of Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema and the Razorback Foundation announced Friday (April 23) a settlement of a contract dispute that will see the former coach paid $8.085 million of an initial $11.935 million contract payout agreement.
The UA fired Bielema Nov. 24, 2017, following a 48-45 loss to Missouri and capping a 4-8 season. Bielema’s five-year record at Arkansas was 29-34, including an 11-29 record in the Southeastern Conference. He was named the 32nd head coach in program history in December 2012 when he left a head coaching position at the University of Wisconsin.
Bielema is now the head football coach at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Bielema sued the foundation for breach of contract in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville on June 12, 2020, demanding $7.02 million and a jury trial. Then an assistant coach for the New York Giants in the National Football League, Bielema was at odds with the Razorback Foundation over the unpaid amount of a buyout agreement following his dismissal as head coach. The foundation alleged that Bielema was not fulfilling his obligation to find a job paying $150,000 a year.
“With the help of others, Bielema intentionally stayed under this number [$150,000],” the Razorback Foundation alleged in a June 2020 filing. “He did so because compensation over $150,000 would inure to the Foundation’s financial benefit instead of his under the offset provisions of the Release Agreement.”
Tom Mars, who splits time between offices in Rogers and Atlanta and was at one time the general counsel for Walmart Inc., is the lead counsel for Bielema. Other counsel listed in the lawsuit for Bielema includes R. Craig Wood and Benjamin P. Abel of Charlottesville, Va.; John C. Everett of Farmington; John E. Tull of Little Rock; and Ryan K. Culpepper of Hot Springs.
The two parties on Friday issued the following statement about the settlement.
Today, the Razorback Foundation and Coach Bret Bielema are pleased to announce they have resolved their differences. The parties agreed to a framework in which Coach Bielema will receive two years and six weeks’ worth of payments under their 2017 Release and Waiver Agreement and the Razorback Foundation will be released from one year’s worth of payments. Under these terms, the Razorback Foundation will make a final payment of $3,529,167 to Coach Bielema, and he will release the Razorback Foundation from $3,850,000 in payments. Both parties will be required to dismiss their lawsuits and be responsible for their own attorneys’ fees. Upon completion of the settlement process, the Razorback Foundation will have paid Coach Bielema a total amount of $8,085,000 of the $11,935,000 set forth in the parties’ original agreement and will have been released from $3,850,000 in payments.
“We believe the resolution of this matter is in the best interest of the Razorback Foundation and our membership,” said Scott Varady, Executive Director of the Razorback Foundation. “We wish Coach Bielema and his family the best moving forward.”
“I am pleased to announce the resolution of our differences with the Razorback Foundation,” said Bielema. “We wish everyone in Razorback Athletics nothing but the best in the years to come.”