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Mike Haywood wants his money from Pitt, and he’s going to federal court to get it

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

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How much is 17 days at your job worth? If former Pittsburgh coach Mike Haywood gets his way in federal court, his 2½-week stint with the Panthers last December will wind up netting him in the neighborhood of $4 million:

Haywood said his contract as head football coach was breached when Pitt promptly fired him after an arrest in a domestic dispute.

The complaint in federal court said his five-year contract called for payments that could total $1.8 million a year. If Pitt wanted to cancel the contract for cause, it would pay him $750,000 per remaining year under the contract.
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Pitt … "terminated Haywood without just cause," and must pay him $750,000 for each of the contract years, the complaint said. The complaint also demands that Pitt pay $300,000 to cover the buyout clause in Haywood's contract with his former employer, Miami [Ohio] University, as it pledged to do upon hiring him. Miami University is seeking that payment from Haywood, it said.

Whether or not it qualifies as "just," legally speaking, the immediate cause for Haywood's exit was a felony domestic violence arrest on New Year's Eve, during an altercation with the 38-year-old mother of Haywood's young son at his home in South Bend, Ind. (Before taking over at Miami, he spent four years as Notre Dame's offensive coordinator under Charlie Weis.) At the time, the woman accused Haywood of "wrapping his arm around her neck and throwing her backward, causing her to fall on a wheelbarrow" when she tried to drive away with the kid; an officer wrote in the initial report that she saw "dark red marks" on the mother's neck and jaw, "a raised mark on her back" and "redness on her right arm," consistent with her story. Haywood claims in the complaint that the woman grabbed his shoulder and slipped on some slush when he pushed her hand off.{YSP:MORE}

Later, the mother told a court Haywood was not a danger to the child, and he agreed in February to enroll in a court diversion program and perform 60 hours of community service in exchange for having the charge dropped. Per the complaint, Pitt "was fully aware that he was embroiled in a custody dispute with his son's mother" when it hired him on Dec. 15. In June, his attorney, Tony Buzbee, formally asked the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and other state and federal agencies to investigate the university's decision to fire his client. "Had Pitt conducted even a cursory investigation," Buzbee wrote, "it would have determined that the alleged incident simply did not occur as reported, and the termination would not have occurred."

I'm a fake doctor, not a lawyer, so I won't speculate on the merits of Haywood's case. (As a rule, I would expect a settlement before anything gets to open trial, but one never knows, does one?) But if he has any prayer of returning a sideline as a Division I head coach — and he may not either way, as long as search engines are returning "felony arrest" next to his name — this is probably a case he needs to win.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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