UH files lawsuit against former men’s head basketball coach
News Release from University of Hawaii June 10, 2015
The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa filed a lawsuit on June 10, 2015 against former UH men’s head basketball coach Gibson Arnold. The lawsuit seeks a court declaration that Arnold’s interpretation of his contract—that he is required to get paid twice as liquidated damages for his termination—is impermissible as a matter of law and public policy. The lawsuit also seeks tort and equitable claims against Arnold for his actions and inactions while he was head coach of the men’s basketball team.
These claims are separate and apart from matters being addressed in Arnold’s pending grievance, which was filed in February 2015 in response to his termination without cause in October 2014.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) initiated an investigation into the UH men’s basketball program in March 2014 and issued its Notice of Allegations on January 31, 2015.
UH submitted its official response to the Notice of Allegations on May 15, 2015.
The NCAA is expected to issue its final ruling on the investigation after an NCAA Committee on Infractions hearing scheduled for July. UH has fully cooperated with the NCAA and will continue to do so.
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U of Hawaii Sues Fired Hoops Coach
by Rein Terrado, Courthouse News June 12, 2015
HONOLULU (CN) - The University of Hawaii, which fired its head basketball coach while the NCAA investigated him, sued the coach Wednesday, refusing to pay the $1.4 million he demands.
The UH sued its former coach Gibson Arnold and the Hawaii Government Employees Association, AFSCME Local 152, in Hawaii's First Circuit Court.
The school fired Arnold without cause on Oct. 28, 2014, six months after the NCAA informed the school it was investigating UH on allegations that Arnold had altered a document a recruit needed for admission.
The UH eventually forfeited 36 wins and paid a $10,000 fine.
On Jan. 31 this year the NCAA gave the school a " Notice of Allegations ," charging the basketball team with three Level I and four Level II violations, "the two most severe level[s] of charges that may be imposed by the NCAA," the school says in its lawsuit against the coach.
In its " Response to Notice of Allegations ," issued through counsel, the UH agreed, among other things, to vacate 36 wins from the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons in which ineligible student-athletes played.
The NCAA accused Arnold of obstructing its investigation or trying to obstruct it, ordering others to conceal violations, "knowingly influence[ing]" at least four team members to conceal an NCAA violation, and "blatantly" ignoring NCAA rules.
Upon firing Arnold, the UH promised it would pay him $128,545 within 30 days to buy out his contract, which ended on Jan. 26 this year, and it did pay him, the school says.
By then Arnold's attorney had sent it two demand letters, alleging torts and breach of contract.
The school hired Arnold on Nov. 3, 2011, for a term ending June 30, 2014, with a guaranteed 1-year extension if the team won 20 games in the 2013-14 season, which it did.
But his contract required him "to immediately report any NCAA violation of which he became aware," the school says in its lawsuit.
Arnold claims the school owes him $1.4 million under the liquidated damages provision of his contract.
The school denies it, claiming that "$1.4 million is well in excess of any actual or anticipated damages incurred by Arnold as a result of the termination."
It also claims that Arnold's employment agreement is unenforceable, due to the events that got him fired. It asks the court to stop arbitration until the court rules on the enforceability of the contract. It also wants damages for breach of loyalty, fraud by concealment, negligent failure to disclose, false claims and unjust enrichment.
Among the NCAA allegations were that a UH booster provided a Porsche Cayenne to a team member, which is prohibited by NCAA rules.
University Athletic Director Ben Jay in October refused to explain why it fired Arnold, but the school answered forthrightly in its May response.
"Had Arnold reported the situation to compliance so it could have conducted an appropriate investigation of the University's relationship with the person in question, he would have confirmed that this individual was in fact, a booster under NCAA legislation," the response states.
Arnold also told team members not to discuss it, the NCAA said in its allegations.
There also were allegations involving a $2,400 hotel bill for a team trip to Las Vegas in November 2012. The school claims it gave Arnold a check for the bill, but that the hotel told it the bill had not been paid, and turned it over to a collection agency.
In an interview, Arnold called the school's claims "ridiculous and pathetic." He said that after being fired, his "exit checklist" said he was clear of outstanding bills.
The university is represented by William McCorriston with McCorriston Miller Mukai & MacKinnon, of Honolulu.