When Steve Alford accepted an offer to become UCLA's new coach 10 days after agreeing to a 10-year contract extension with New Mexico, it left many Lobos fans feeling betrayed and upset.
Expect that tension to only escalate as a result of a dispute over how much buyout money Alford owes the school because of his departure.
New Mexico maintains Alford owes $1 million as stipulated in his contract extension, but school officials told the Albuquerque Journal on Monday evening that the UCLA coach has yet to pay that sum. The Journal obtained an email sent by Alford earlier in the day in which he offered only to comply with the terms of his previous contract and its $200,000 buyout.
The crux of the issue is whether the still unsigned new contract had taken effect yet.
Alford announced he was resigning to take the UCLA job on March 30, two days before his new contract began on April 1 and before he had even signed more than just an offer sheet. Because Alford's previous contract stipulates he will give 30 days notice before leaving, New Mexico maintains that his final day of work was 30 days after his resignation, bringing the $1 million buyout into play.
Barring a change of heart from either side, it appears this contract dispute will likely be settled by an independent arbitrator hearing arguments from attorneys from both sides. I'm certainly no contract attorney, but it would seem Alford has a legitimate case since he had yet to formally sign his new contract, he left before it began and a 30-day notice of termination requirement is very rare in the coaching industry.
Regardless, it's unclear how much of the buyout money will come out of Alford's pocket anyway.
UCLA had given him a $200,000 signing bonus to cover the buyout from the previous contract. It would not be surprising to see the school step in and help its coach cover any further money the arbitrator decides he owes.