UH announces $700,000 settlement with former men’s basketball coach

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The University of Hawaii at Manoa and former UH men’s head basketball coach Gib Arnold have come to a mediated resolution ending all legal disputes between the parties, the university announced Thursday.

The university’s Board of Regents approved the settlement in an 8-6 vote after a closed-door meeting on Maui.

Arnold has agreed to drop all claims against the university in return for a $700,000 settlement, which consists of a $200,000 payment to his attorney and $500,000 to Arnold spread over three calendar years.

“Gib is certainly very pleased with the settlement,” said Arnold’s attorney, James Bickerton. “UH is making a lot of allegations and charges against him and they have dropped all those and agreed to pay him a substantial sum.”

“It’s time for the university to move past this chapter in the history of UH men’s basketball,” said UH Manoa chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman. “It is the best thing for UH and it is the best thing for the program. Now we can turn our full focus to the future and the players and coaches, as they prepare for the upcoming season.”

Settlement breakdown:

  • $300,000 to be paid November 30, 2015 ($200,000 to Arnold’s attorney, $100,000 to Arnold)
  • $200,000 to be paid January 15, 2016
  • $200,000 to be paid January 15, 2017

A university spokesman said most of the money will come out of the school’s emergency risk management fund, while $100,000 will come out of insurance.

When everything is tallied, the university is spending more than a million dollars to settle with Arnold.

In addition to Thursday’s settlement, Arnold’s remaining salary cost UH $148,000, and another $250,000 will go toward the university’s legal fees, for a total of $1,098,000.

Officials decided the payout was in the best interest of the university.

“The possible expenditure of attorneys’ fees just to take this matter, even if we were to win entirely, probably would’ve exceeded the $700,000 just in and of itself,” said Carrie Okinaga, UH general counsel.

“I think early on, certainly, they took positions they really should not have and did not need to take, but I give credit to the new people in the administration who took a look at everything and realized that this was a case that should have been settled,” said Bickerton.

Going forward, enhancements have already been made to the compliance program at UH Manoa’s Athletics Department, and additional controls surrounding its contracts have been implemented, officials said.

The NCAA enforcement proceedings continue irrespective of this settlement.

Although the hearing is being conducted Thursday, a ruling is not anticipated for several months.

Governor, lawmakers say UH needs to improve

Rep. Isaac Choy, D, Manoa, Punahou, Moiliili, serves as chair of the House Committee on Higher Education.

He calls Thursday’s settlement another huge payout that the university cannot afford.

“I think someone should take responsibility for this particular Gib Arnold incident because it’s not the first incident. We’ve been paying out a lot,” he said.

In 2014, UH announced a $100,000 payout to former Chancellor Tom Apple. In 2012, the school lost $200,000 after the Stevie Wonder “Wonder Blunder” concert scam. In December 2011, former football coach Greg McMackin resigned and accepted a $600,000 buyout. The school also paid former basketball coach Bob Nash $240,000 in 2010 and former Athletics Director Herman Frazier $312,510 in 2008.

“I had a public hearing a year before last and I asked President Lassner how come everybody gets fired and then they lawyer up and then we end up paying? He gave me a glib answer and I can appreciate it. He said, ‘Well, anybody can sue,'” Choy said. “We’ll probably have a hearing on this so we can get a better answer than ‘anybody can sue.'”

KHON2 asked Gov. David Ige about the settlement, and how taxpayers keep footing the bill for these payouts.

“I definitely am concerned with the cost of these contracts and especially what citizens end up paying for,” he said.

The governor says the university needs to do a better job of how it structures contracts.

“From my area, we are committed to enforcing our contracts and ensuring that our contractors fulfill their requirements,” Ige said.

The governor also said he will meet with the university president and regents to ensure they do a better job of how they structure contracts.

“Hopefully the university does realize at the end of the day, the Legislature funds the university so maybe there is something that can be done,” Choy said.

A UH spokesperson said officials are making improvements to compliance and contracts.

For example, more attorneys are now looking over UH contracts and they’re working on the language of these contracts, hoping to avoid big payouts like this one in the future.

Local attorney calls Arnold’s contract ‘laughable’

Michael Green has negotiated big-dollar contracts and represented professional athletes.

The local attorney isn’t involved with Arnold or the university, but says the contract the university gave Arnold is “laughable.”

“They didn’t have to pay him a penny,” he said. “It’s clear in here, you terminate with cause, he doesn’t get another dime from the day you say adios, don’t let the door hit you. And they chose to say without cause, which means they had to pay his salary.”

Click here to view Arnold’s contract with the University of Hawaii.

Green says the way the contract was written gave the university no wiggle room.

He also says the way they handled the situation put Arnold in the position of power when it came time to negotiate.

“Once they say it’s without cause, they better pay him,” Green said.

Green also says despite what he calls many ambiguities in the contract, the university still had an out.

“They knew enough, I believe, to say it’s with cause, ‘I’m really sorry coach,’ and they (would be) okay, then they negotiate, maybe they give him a few bucks. (But now) they got to pay this guy. They gotta pay him,” he said. “You can be (in) second-year law school and read this and know, ‘Who made that mistake? Who made that call?'”

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