Is appears to be the end of the line for former UL Lafayette head football coach Jerry Baldwin and his quixotic quest for money from the university, which in 2001 fired him — three years into a four-year contract and after the then-woeful Cajuns had compiled a 6-27 record under his leadership.
In a case with more twists and turns than a Hitchcock thriller, the Louisiana Supreme Court on Monday declined to rehear an appeal by Baldwin alleging breach of contract. It was Baldwin´s last chance to siphon a little extra income out of the University of Louisiana System; Baldwin originally sought damages in 2003 for tortious interference with a contract, abuse of rights, intentional and/or negligent infliction of emotional distress as well as unpaid wages, and in 2007 tacked on a racial discrimination complaint.
A Baton Rouge jury later awarded him $2 million in damages — an award that was vacated by an appeals court. His original suit also named as defendants, in addition to the UL System, UL Lafayette and former UL Athletic Director Nelson Schexnayder. As the suit bounced between district court and the appeals court, most of the claims made by Baldwin were dismissed, leaving only breach of contract.
The high court in mid October reversed and vacated an appeals court ruling in favor of Baldwin finding that UL had indeed breached the terms of the contract by not providing Baldwin with 30 days notice of his termination — an appellate ruling that reversed a Baton Rouge district court judge´s ruling against former coach. The litigious Baldwin — as pastor and headmaster of a Ruston Christian academy, Baldwin was also behind a lawsuit against the state Department of Education last year after the DOE kicked his school out of the voucher program for overcharging voucher students on tuition — is out of options at this point, save for the incalculably rare odds that the U.S. Supreme Court elects to take the case.
The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled in October — and reaffirmed by declining to rehear the case — that Baldwin´s contract was not breached by the university. In fact, as the October ruling points out, Baldwin wasn´t terminated at all — he was merely relieved of his head coaching duties but was paid the full terms of his contract including salary, health benefits, sick leave and pension credits: “Thus, Baldwin remained a paid employee of UL in a capacity other than as head coach,” Associate Justice John Weimer writes in the majority opinion. “Had the contract been completely terminated, Baldwin would not have been entitled to receive employee benefits. By continuing to pay Baldwin as an employee of UL, defendants fulfilled the obligations under the contract. ...Since the contract did not guarantee Baldwin continued employment as UL´s head football coach for the duration of the term of the contract, defendants acted within their contractual rights in relieving Baldwin of his coaching duties, while maintaining him as a payroll employee.”
To read the opinion, click here.