New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has been subpoenaed in a lawsuit involving former Patriots consultant Bret Bielema and The Razorback Foundation. According to Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic, they’re looking for more than just background information from Belichick. The Foundation suspects a conspiracy.
The lawsuit against Bret Bielema
Bielema and the The Razorback Foundation, a group that fundraises for the University of Arkansas athletics department, have been locked in a lawsuit for for nearly six months. It’s centered on the terms of Bielema’s firing and his compensation.
Bielema coached the Arkansas football team for five seasons and was fired in November 2017. Bielema had a $12 million buyout as part of his contract, but he was required to seek high-paying employment that would reduce the amount that Arkansas owed him.
That’s where things get messy. Belichick hired Bielema as a consultant for the Patriots in 2018, but his $125,000 income wasn’t high enough to reduce Arkansas’ buyout payments.
Buyout clauses like Bielema’s are standard practice in college sports, but what is less standard is the vitriol that has ensued since Arkansas terminated Bielema on Nov. 24, 2017. The Foundation alleges Bielema made no effort to find a high-paying job, and in January 2019 declared him in breach and stopped paying him with $7 million remaining on the contract. Bielema sued in June 2020, and the Foundation countersued.
Belichick’s involvement in the alleged conspiracy
While from the outside it appears that Belichick gave a fired college football coach a low-impact consultant job, the Foundation sees it differently. Belichick and Bielema share an agent, Neil Cornrich, and the Foundation alleges that Bielema, Belichick and Cornrich conspired to get Bielema a job that intentionally wouldn’t pay him enough to reduce Arkansas’ buyout payment.
Here’s how the Foundation described the alleged plan in court documents, via The Athletic:
“The Foundation expressly pleaded that helping the Patriots hire Bielema for a low salary benefitted both of Cornrich’s clients and therefore benefitted Cornrich,” the organization wrote in court papers Tuesday. “Bielema benefited … and the Patriots (and by extension Belichick) benefited by hiring a coach with years of college head coaching experience and three Rose Bowls for next to no pay.”
Even though this arrangement would have directly benefitted Belichick and the Patriots, the Foundation admitted that it’s possible that Belichick didn’t know about the alleged plan, and it could have been hatched and executed without his direct knowledge.
Regardless of whether he knew about the alleged plan (if there even was a plan), Belichick and the Patriots aren’t named as counter-defendants in the suit. According to the court documents, they chose to leave Belichick and the Patriots out of it “in a conscious effort to go no further than necessary to defend the claim against it and to pursue its claims.”
More from Yahoo Sports: