The University of Maryland finally has its new basketball coach, Mark Turgeon, who left the same position at Texas A&M University. Turgeon’s job-switching has angered media busybodies who claim — falsely — that Turgeon violated his Texas A&M contract, or otherwise acted unethically, by taking the Maryland job. ESPN blowhard Dick Vitale ranted this morning to an appreciative Mike Greenberg:
I’m a little fed up with this, contracts are contracts, they don’t mean anything anymore. They’re coaching on the collegiate level, they are meaningless, they are so one-sided.
If I walked into my bosses — and I have a five-year commitment and they’re good enough to give me that — I’m not able to just leave when I want to leave.
If I sign you to a five-year deal and tell you how much I love you, and how much I want you and you want us, I’m going to look you in the eye and tell you, ‘my friend, don’t come to me after two years when you want out.’
I would simply say, if a guy signs a contract, why not honor it? That’s the purpose of a contract.
Now I don’t know the exact terms of Turgeon’s contract with Texas A&M, but I have reviewed a fair number of college coaching contracts over the years. Generally they can be terminated by either party with or without cause. There are usually financial incentives in place to complete the stated term of the contract, but these provisions are not enforced when the coach terminates without cause.
The point is that waving your arms in the air and saying, “A contract is a contract!” is ignorant and immature. Vitale is only looking at one term — the length of the deal — and ignoring other provisions that clearly preserve the right of a coach to leave and take another job if he so chooses. Sure, in some industries, contracts contain “non-compete” clauses whereby the employee agrees not to take a similar job within a certain time period. No doubt Vitale was referring to this when discussing his own contract. But such non-compete provisions are uncommon in coaching contracts. Just because Vitale may wish for such non-compete provisions to exist doesn’t make it incumbent on Turgeon to obey an imaginary implied duty that contradicts the plainly stated terms of his contract.
A contract means exactly what it states. It doesn’t mean what third parties with their own agendas want it to mean. Vitale acts like a government regulator eager to re-write contracts to suit his whims. It’s yet another indicator of the media’s economic ignorance distorting the truth.