Mark Snyder’s recent blog post in the Detroit Free Press caused a little bit of a dust up over the terms of Scott Shafer’s resignation as defensive coordinator. Here’s some from the post titled ‘Departed defensive coordinator sworn to not rip Michigan’:
Shafer parted ways with Michigan by “mutual agreement” a week before the school announced the change in the letter from athletic director Bill Martin, but there were conditions. It said Shafer could not publicly release the terms of his agreement, and he also agreed “that I will not issue any statements to the media or in a public or similar setting which demean or disparage the University of Michigan, the football program, or any of their employees, in any way.”
It’s implied here that Shafer would “rip” Michigan if he could, but contractually, he can’t. I don’t know if that’s what Snyder wanted to convey or whether a headline writer took some liberties, but either way it comes off as if Michigan is trying to silence a potentially loose cannon in the form of a disgruntled former defensive coordinator.
While we don’t know what Shafer would say right now if could, certainly there was a misalignment with Rodriguez or he’d still be there. The question is whether Michigan went out of its way to write some special language into the severance contract to keep Shafer quiet.
Instead of speculating on this I shot a quick note to local attorney Nick Roumel whose firm (Nick Roumel and Associates) handles sports and entertainment contracts. I asked for his take on these terms and in particular, whether this language prohibiting Shafer to “demean or disparage” the football program is unusual.
Here’s what Roumel wrote to me:
I can tell you that those terms are typical for most employment separation agreements. Those might include an agreement that the separation is a resignation, that the employee is receiving some kind of severance, that he is waiving his right to sue, that he and the employer agree to not disparage one another and to keep the matter confidential, etc.
The trick with a public employer is that the separation is probably still obtainable under the Freedom of Information Act, and I’m guessing the Freep obtained a copy of that agreement.
Not surprising, but this doesn’t appear to be anything unusual. While that’s one attorney’s take on agreements of this sort, it’s one more attorney than was asked to comment on the Snyder post.
Update 12/30: Jim Carty talked about the contractual terms on WTKA yesterday and offered “it would not surprise me if it were standard or somewhat standard”. Audio from MLive. Oh, he also talked about Big Will Campbell.