A wise man once said, "All is fair in love and war and football." That man was me, five seconds ago.
It seems that University of Southern California Football coach Lane Kiffin agrees. Kiffin hired, or perhaps "poached," Tennessee Titans running back coach Kennedy Pola as USC's offensive coordinator. The Titans organization was not pleased, and filed suit against Kiffin and USC for "maliciously interfering with the contract of running backs coach Kennedy Pola." The Titans contend that Kiffin and USC are part of "a culture of violation and avoidance of respect." In addition the suit states that Kiffin maliciously induced Pola to breach his contract.
The lawsuit, available via AoL.com, alleged that Kiffin malicious interfered with the contract of coach Kennedy Pola. Under Pola's contract, he agreed not to solicit discussions or entertain employment with other organizations during the term of his contract without receiving written permission. The complaint further states that due to the alleged tortuous conduct, the Titans have been damaged in an amount to be proven at trial.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher seemed to take the hiring personally. "I am very disappointed in Lane Kiffin's approach to this ... when coaches are interested in hiring ... there is a courtesy call made from the head coach or athletic director indicating there is an interest in talking to the assistant ... So I am very disappointed in the lack of professionalism on behalf of Lane..."
The complaint states that Kiffin contacted Pola about the job last Friday. Kiffin offered Pola the job at USC. The Titans argue that Pola breached his contract by engaging in contract discussions. By Saturday, Pola had accepted the job and the fire storm began. The Titans claim that Kiffin and USC were well aware of the details of Pola's contract, but ignored it anyway. The Titans contend that this is the fifth time that Kiffin has hired someone who is under contract at another organization.
Inducement of breach of contract is a civil cause of action in Tennessee. The relevant statute states, "It is unlawful for any person, by inducement, persuasion, misrepresentation, or other means, to induce or procure the breach or violation, refusal or failure to perform any lawful contract by any party thereto; and, in every case where a breach or violation of such contract is so procured, the person so procuring or inducing the same shall be liable in treble the amount of damages resulting from or incident to the breach of the contract."
- Ruling Against Former Employer in Tortious Interference With Contractual Relations Claim (FindLaw's 6th Circuit Blog)
- Interference With Contractual or Business Relations: The Business Claim (FindLaw)
- USC Files Appeal to NCAA in Football Sanctions Case (FindLaw's Tarnished Twenty)