Court documents reveal new details about messy divorce between LSU, ex-coordinator John Chavis

LSU coach Les Miles offered former defensive coordinator John Chavis a three-year contract worth a total of $5.4 million the night of the Tigers’ Music City Bowl loss to Notre Dame, according to documents Chavis filed in a lawsuit against his former employer.

Chavis refused the $1.8-million-a-year offer during a meeting with Miles and Miles’ lawyer in the team’s hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. Chavis had decided weeks beforehand not to return to LSU because of a contract dispute involving a clause in his contract, and Miles knew Chavis was leaving his staff in the weeks leading to the bowl game, documents say.

In fact, Texas A&M mailed a letter of intent for its defensive coordinator job to Chavis three days before the Tigers and the Irish dueled in the bowl game – one in which Chavis coached.

The latest documents paint a more detailed picture of the messy divorce between Chavis and LSU – now playing out in a Louisiana court.

A judge dismissed Chavis’ suit against the school in Texas court three weeks ago, giving athletic director Joe Alleva and LSU home field advantage in their fight to get the coach to pay a $400,000 buyout. Chavis’ lawyers in the Louisiana case have vowed to fight and say they plan to depose LSU administrators and coaches during the season.

In the most recent documents, Chavis, now the defensive coordinator at A&M, is asking for $445,000 in penalty wages to go along with $205,000 in unpaid vacation and academic bonus pay he says the school owes him.

The 20-page document filed in the 19th Judicial District Court in East Baton Rouge Parish outline – in more detail than ever – Chavis’ final days at LSU. Also in the filings, Chavis denies a slew of accusations made by LSU regarding his flirtation and recruitment for A&M while still under contract with the Tigers.

LSU and Texas A&M, both ranked in the top 25 and Southeastern Conference Western Division rivals, meet on the football field at Tiger Stadium on Nov. 28.

LSU general counsel Tom Skinner released a statement to The Advocate on Tuesday night, saying the school “strongly disputes” Chavis’ claims and will respond to them in court.

“LSU will litigate this in the courtroom, and we are confident that our description of the events and legal positions will be proven true,” the statement said. “LSU had a contract with Mr. Chavis and LSU will continue to seek the damages to which it is entitled under that binding agreement.”

In the most recent filings, Chavis says LSU began a “campaign of disinformation” against the coach after he left, harming his “good name, reputation and standing in the community.”

Chavis also contends in the filings that Alleva became “increasingly hostile” with him after the coach did not agree to sign a new contract because of the Miles clause and that their relationship had “deteriorated significantly” by December.

The clause “would allow LSU to terminate Chavis’ employment in the event Les Miles’ employment (is) terminated with LSU,” documents show. The contracts of all other LSU assistants include the clause.

Chavis was promised by Miles when hired that his contract at LSU would “mirror that of his contract with Tennessee and rollover automatically every year,” the documents say. As a result of that agreement, Chavis turned down other jobs, he claims in the documents.

Miles, Chavis and Alleva were expected to meet in “early December” to discuss the contract dispute, but the athletic director never showed, documents say.

“Alleva advised Miles that he was busy and that Chavis had a contract on his desk,” the filings say.

At that point, Chavis told Miles he would not sign a new contract with LSU and that he would begin looking for another job. In late December, Chavis discussed with Miles possible replacements for himself, documents say. While at the Music City Bowl in Nashville, both coaches contacted Chavis’ recruits “in order to assure a smooth transition.”

After the Tigers lost 31-28 to Notre Dame in the bowl game, Miles, his lawyer and Chavis met. Miles offered the coach a contract that would pay him $1.7, $1.8 and $1.9 million over three years.

“Chavis never saw the details of this offer,” Chavis writes in his filings. “He still refused it.”

A&M is paying the coach $1.5 million in 2015, $1.55 million in 2016 and $1.6 million in 2017. It is a fully guaranteed deal. Chavis made $1.3 million in his final year at LSU and was set to make the same in 2015 – the final year of his contract.

On the day of the bowl game, Chavis asked Miles if he needed to give a 30 days notice, and Miles told him no, the filings say.

“John it is not necessary if you are not going to stay I do not want you hanging around here,” the documents show.

Chavis, meanwhile, continues to contend that an LSU official altered his contract after he signed it and before it was approved by the LSU Board of Supervisors. Chavis is requesting a jury trial, documents show.

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.

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