We first called upon MVictors’s legal correspondent to assess Shand v. Martin. With the all the scuttlebutt around the missing paperwork at West Virginia, we once again call in a favor to our guest law..talking..guy. His take:
I’m not too familiar with these employment-related laws – it seems like Coach Rod’s agent and the assistant UM law professor quoted in the following this Free Press article are on track, but criminal liability strikes me as a bit far-fetched.
Coach Rod is certainly allowed to destroy his own personal stuff, but what exactly did he destroy and who owns it? From another related legal angle, there are intellectual property laws that come into play in the employment setting — i.e., whether the records he creates in connection with his employment are the property of his employer.
You might have had to sign an “inventions assignment” agreement (sometimes called a proprietary rights agreement) in your field, and many companies make that a standard part of their employee handbook and hiring practices. Those agreements essentially say that what you create in the course of your employment is the property of your employer. There are also specific intellectual property laws that come into play in this area.
It’s a bit goofy in the coaching world – coaches take their playbooks wherever they go, for example. If the records he destroyed were just playing data, for example, destroying those wouldn’t seem to be such a problem. But if the records detailed off-the field activities, recruiting matters, and not just playing data – and those records weren’t just Coach Rod’s personal copies – then the needle starts pointing in the direction of a problem.
The whole compliance angle raised by Coach Rod’s agent is a good one – I don’t know what the NCAA rules are but it would seem really odd if the head coach was allowed to be the sole keeper of vital records. Maybe coaches do this all the time when they leave (they certainly have to clean out their offices just like anybody else) and maybe this is an attempt by West Virginia University to gain a bit of leverage against Coach Rod in their lawsuit seeking the $4 million buy-out. Either way, it puts Coach Rod (and Bill Martin) in an uncomfortable position.
That’s why he’s the lawyer and I’m the internet…writing…dude.