The University of Houston has been quiet since the Michael Young divorce from the basketball program at the end of May. Young accused the school of NCAA violations. His son Joseph, the basketball team's leading scorer, quit and has transferred to Oregon. Allegations of physical threats against Joseph have been made. And last week, Michael Young filed a conspiracy-filled lawsuit against the school.
The athletic department has done the legally smart thing, but the PR-bad thing, and has remained silent. There have been numerous "no comments" to questions regarding the allegations. There has been the boilerplate about fighting the allegations in court. But the school would not budge and say more until Wednesday, when the athletic department released a three-paragraph statement rebutting Young's allegations. It said there was no unlawful conduct, no conduct that would violate NCAA rules or regulations. It stated that the basketball program had decided to move in a different direction and that it was decided that Young's involvement with the basketball program was no longer required.
"To provide continuity for Young, the University decided to offer him a new contract that would have him transition into new community relations duties within the Athletic Department," the press release said. "The new contract gave Young a year at his same salary."
The Cougars stated they were transferring Young to a community relations role and that the position would last for one year, at his current salary, while he was looking for another position. The school further denied the allegations about Young being told to sit at home, not perform work and still collect a paycheck. The school also stated that, since Young has refused to perform the required duties under the contract, it exercised the termination provision of the contract on June 17, 2013.
"Young's arrangement in his new community relations role was reviewed by the Athletic Department's compliance office, as well as the Office of the General Counsel, to ensure it was in compliance with applicable laws and NCAA bylaws," states the press release. "The University has been transparent, and its actions have been appropriate. We are disheartened and saddened to hear these allegations we believe are baseless and untrue. We do not intend to comment further except to state we look forward to defending our actions in court."
What the university has yet to do, however, is file its answer to Young's lawsuit, something the school doesn't need to do until the end of the month. The result is that this continued PR war between the university and the former legend will continue, and both sides will continue to come out as losers.
Both sides have presented their version of the facts. The school doesn't detail the office meeting, and it doesn't address the issue with the mysterious jogger warning Michael Young of the so-called threats against Joseph Young. And with UH not yet filing a legal response, it's still somewhat difficult to figure out what its court strategy will be, besides a firm denial.
But there is one thing that neither party has addressed -- Young and his attorney have yet to touch upon it as part of their PR offensive or in that so-called lawsuit, and UH ignored it in its press release. And as an attorney, this issue is the first thing that hit me, and if I were a judge, I'd be asking both parties about it.
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Young supposedly sent an e-mail on May 31 rescinding a contract that was to be effective as of June 1. That contract contains a termination provision stating that either party could terminate the contract, but only by providing 30 days advance notice in writing (e-mail not allowed). But if Young really sent an e-mail on May 31 rescinding the contract he signed, that should be appropriate since the termination provision was not yet in effect because the contract was not yet in effect.
The Cougars stress that they have continued to honor the supposedly rescinded contract and that they are now terminating the contract because Young has refused to perform his instructed duties. So either Young's e-mail was never sent or UH has chosen to not act on it because it doesn't comply with the notice provision -- they could be making an argument that once Young signed the contract, he was bound by the notification terms even if the contract had yet to go into effect. And this should have been the first thing Young's attorney argued in the complaint seeking to enforce the revocation of the contract, but he never mentioned this, instead choosing to focus on conspiracy theories, he-said-she-said arguments and mysterious men appearing from nowhere on jogging paths.
It's a lawsuit that is currently destined to fail, which questions the reason for bringing it. Unless that reason, of course, was to discredit and to bring down ridicule on the University of Houston. And that serves no one but Joseph Young since the allegations of the lawsuit appear to be more about someone setting up grounds for the NCAA to provide a waiver to allow Young to play at Oregon without sitting out a year -- and Oregon proved last summer with Rice and Arsalan Kazemi that it's pretty good at manipulating the NCAA to get what it wants with basketball transfers.
This is a sad situation for the reputations of both Michael Young and the University of Houston. And it's probably only going to get worse -- Young's attorney issued a statement essentially calling UH liars -- once UH files an answer with court. It probably didn't have to be this way, but it's way too late to do anything about it now.