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Chavis Wins This Round in LSU Lawsuit

Sometimes, it’s about telling a better story

LSU v Washington
The Chief can see the future
Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The Chavis lawsuit continues its inexorable grind, and now we’re getting into the phase of the game that both parties likely wanted to avoid: depositions.

Jill Craft, Chavis’ lawyer, just filed a motion to dismiss, attaching excerpts from depositions of various LSU officials, including Alleva and Miles. This is a standard procedural motion and it is highly unlikely Craft has any hope that this motion will be granted.

However, the motion does serve a tactical purpose, as it helps create a narrative for the judge of the case based upon the evidence gathered so far. By quoting a few key depositions, Craft can create a cohesive narrative that favors her client and will hopefully stick in the judge’s mind going forward. So, no, the case is not going to be dismissed, but this is still a valuable tactic anyway.

And the story that Chavis is telling, at least according to The Advocate, is compelling. I should warn you that of course the story is compelling, otherwise Craft would not have filed this motion. She’s trying to tell the story from her client’s point of view, so this is the best possible version of events without rebuttal from LSU (until LSU files its response).

Chavis hasn’t been deposed himself yet, but other LSU officials told the story for him. From Ross Dellenger’s piece:

“I would say coach Chavis felt that there was more than one thing being done at the university that the treatment of coach Miles was disrespectful,” said Dean Dingman, LSU’s assistant director of football operations, in his deposition. “He actually used the term that it reminded him of what happened to coach Fulmer at Tennessee.”

Later, from the same article:

Dingman, Miles and Alleva met during LSU’s bye week of Nov. 18, 2014 — before the game against Texas A&M and after a 17-0 loss at Arkansas — to discuss staff contracts. That’s the meeting in which Chavis’ new contract was discussed and agreed upon — with the "Les Miles clause."

In a meeting with Chavis around the same time, Dingman said Chavis expressed that the "Les Miles clause" was “a reflection on how the university administration felt about coach Miles.”

This recasts Chavis not as a mercenary who jumped ship at the first sign of trouble, but as a loyal Miles assistant who tried to warn his friend that LSU was going to knife him in the back, just as Tennessee did to Fulmer. Given how things played out last year, it’s not like he was talking out of school. Chavis was damn near prescient on this front. He saw Alleva and his cronies maneuvering to fire Miles long before any of us did.

Once they offered him a contract with the “Les Miles clause”, Chavis refused to sign. LSU eventually backed down, but by then it was too late. The relationship had already soured, and Chavis saw the writing on the wall. Not just for him, but for Miles.

Miles apparently wanted to keep Chavis and was stunned by his defection. This was not a don’t let the door hit you in the ass situation. Chavis and Miles appear to have had a great working relationship, and Miles showed loyalty to his assistant to the end, and vice versa. Chavis leaving wasn’t an act of betrayal, but a warning about the untrustworthy machinations of Alleva and his cohorts. A warning that, not to put too fine a point on it, was entirely correct.

That’s a nice story, and it is why Craft filed it in the first place. However, the legal argument is far less compelling. She argues that LSU made alterations to the contract behind Chavis’ back and without his consent, and this invalidates the entire contract.

LSU argues that these changes were immaterial, such as changing the name of the president of the university, and a slight rewording of the buyout clause which had no legal effect. Now, I’m not a huge fan of the argument that we were changing the language of the buyout, but it doesn’t matter because those changes were for absolutely no purpose. However, it is a legitimate factual argument.

Craft has to show the court that there is no factual argument, and that the evidence is so overwhelming for her case that she wins as a matter of law. And these depositions came no closer to resolving the central factual dispute in this case: whether the contractual changes voided the buyout clause or were so minor as to have no legal effect.

The motion to dismiss is almost certainly going to be denied, but it doesn’t matter. Chavis won this round anyway by forging a compelling narrative that was later validated by future events. Craft has successfully recast her client from a cravenly villain to a sympathetic hero. Because anyone comes off well when contrasted with Alleva.