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Non-Compete Clauses in Big-Time Coaching Contracts

In college sports these days, the coach often draws more attention than the players. Most people follow intercollegiate sports - especially football and basketball - have no trouble instantly associating a coaching name and face with a program. Penn State = Joe Paterno, for example. Duke = Coach K.

A famous coach is commonly associated with a successful recruiting program, which makes for a winning team, notoriety for a school's sports program and a steady infusion of money for the athletic department and other school programs.

In short, many "known" coaches are invaluable commodities. Almost all of them have agents. And, because of their importance to a program, schools are increasingly using non-compete agreements to keep them or prevent other schools from hiring them.

This is especially true in conferences where competition is cutthroat and vying programs routinely seek to raid the coaching staffs of competitors. Agent Russ Campbell says, "I am starting to see colleges attempt to get non-compete clauses within the conference or the region." Fellow agent Jimmy Sexton notes that, "Either contractually, the coaches are locked up or the schools are going to fight to keep them."

A question naturally arises concerning the trend: Are these clauses legally enforceable? What if, for example, a coach signs an agreement that bars him - or her - from coaching at another school in the same conference for, say, five years?

The conditions are obviously everything in a non-compete agreement. The enforceability of such a clause "is in question," Campbell says. "It depends on whether the clause is reasonable."

And for a determination of that - whatever the work arena - an experienced employment law attorney's counsel and input is invaluable.

Related Resource: "The Next Big Thing in contracts: Will more coaching deals include non-compete clauses?" August 29, 2010

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