Former Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings was reportedly offered a reduced buyout of $4.8 million on Thursday and told if he did not accept it, he would be fired for cause because he responded to a heckler during Pitt’s Jan. 2 loss at Louisville, according to Colin Dunlap of 93.7 The Fan.
The $4.8 million offer was worth about 50 percent of the $9.4 million buyout that is said to be included in the coach’s contract in the event that he was terminated without cause. However, Stallings declined the offer.
Dunlap cited sources that said Stallings claims his behavior at Louisville doesn’t constitute cause for his dismissal, as it did not violate any code of conduct included in his contract.
The incident in question occurred when Pitt’s bench was being heckled by fans in Louisville during the team’s 77-51 loss to the Cardinals. Stallings responded by turning to the fans and shouting, “At least we didn’t pay our kids $100,000.”
Stallings’ response was in reference to the ongoing FBI investigation into NCAA recruiting violations, which cost former Louisville head coach Rick Pitino his job after it was alleged that former Cardinals recruit Brian Bowen accepted $100,000 to play for Louisville.
Pitt took no punitive action against Stallings at the time, but according to Craig Meyer of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the incident prompted the university to create a file on Stallings to record such behavior as potential cause to fire him in the future:
“Following an outburst directed toward a fan in Louisville on Jan. 2, Pitt created a file on former men’s basketball coach Kevin Stallings in which it could record instances of misbehavior or bits of unsavory information that could potentially be used to fire him with cause, according to a source.
“Athletic Director Heather Lyke, under pressure from prominent boosters, decided in early January she would fire Stallings at the end of the season, sources told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Stallings was removed from his position Thursday, and the university is continuing the effort to fire him with cause, meaning it would not have to pay him a buyout upward of $9 million, multiple sources said.”
Scott Tompsett and Jim Lieber, Stallings’ attorneys, responded to the reports that Pitt was attempting to fire their client for cause in a statement Friday afternoon.
“Mr. Lieber and I vehemently disagree with reports from unnamed sources that Pitt has cause to terminate Coach Stallings’ contract for cause based on comments Coach Stallings made at the Louisville game over two months ago,” Tompsett wrote. “It is our position that Coach Stallings is due and owed his full contractual buyout.”
With Stallings having turned down Pitt’s reduced buyout offer, the financial terms of his dismissal remain unsettled.