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July 7, 2011

Haywood wants review of Pitt firing

Michael Haywood

Michael Haywood

Former head football coach Michael Haywood, who was fired by Pitt in January just 16 days after being hired, wants an investigation of his termination.

According to his lawyer, Tony Buzbee, Haywood is asking the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (HRC) and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate his dismissal.

HRC spokesperson Shannon Powers confirmed that the commission received the complaint on June 29. “The paperwork is being processed, and [Haywood] has not yet signed a final complaint. When a signed complaint is received, the investigation will begin,” Powers said this week. “The complaint is also filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Typically, complainants will file with both the state and federal agency. Only one agency investigates — in this case it is the PA Human Relations Commission.”

If the HRC investigation warrants, a letter will be sent to the University which must be responded to in writing within 30 days, Powers said.

Pitt fired Haywood Jan. 1 following his New Year’s Eve arrest in South Bend, Ind., on alleged domestic abuse charges involving the mother of his then-21-month-old child in the presence of the child, a class D felony. (See Jan. 6 University Times.)

In a statement released June 28 to the press, Buzbee said, “In their rush to judgment, Pitt officials did not bother to contact the alleged victim or even the coach himself. I believe the University violated its contract with the coach, the University’s employment procedures and the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution. Had Pitt conducted even a cursory investigation, it would have determined that the alleged incident simply did not occur as reported, and the termination would not have occurred. We are exploring other motives for Pitt’s firing of Coach Haywood.”

Through Buzbee, Haywood stated, “I deeply apologize for all the problems this incident has caused, including [for] the 16 people who were once part of my staff. However, the allegations as reported are completely false.”

At his pretrial hearing in February, Haywood admitted he grabbed the woman during an argument and that she was injured in a fall during the encounter, a version of the events that differs from the arresting officers’ report.

Haywood then entered a court-approved diversion agreement, requiring him to undergo a psychological evaluation and perform 60 hours of community service. Presiding Judge Jane Woodward Miller said the charge would be dismissed in a year if Haywood honored the agreement.

Buzbee said Haywood, who signed a five-year contract with Pitt worth $7.5 million, is seeking an investigation by state and federal agencies and a meeting with University officials. He said the contract included a clause that if Haywood was fired without cause he was to be paid $750,000 for every year of the contract following the dismissal. Buzbee said Pitt also is obligated to pay the $300,000 buy-out fee necessitated when Haywood left his previous job as head coach of Miami University (Ohio).

Pitt responded in a statement released June 29 by E.J. Borghetti, senior associate athletics director. “When the decision was made to terminate Michael Haywood in January, it was done so only after careful and thorough consideration of all relevant circumstances,” Borghetti said. “The University subsequently provided a full and public explanation of that decision, eliminating the need to discuss this subject any further.”

In a prepared statement issued Jan. 1 following Haywood’s firing, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said in part, “To be clear, the University’s decision is not tied to any expectation with respect to the terms on which the legal proceeding now pending in Indiana might ultimately be concluded. Instead, it reflects a strong belief that moving forward with Mr. Haywood as our head coach is not possible under the existing circumstances.”

Nordenberg continued, “Head coaches are among the University’s most visible representatives and are expected to maintain high standards of personal conduct and to avoid situations that might reflect negatively on the University.”

—Peter Hart

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