It’s going to be hard to fire Janet Cone

Well, it certainly won’t be that easy.

Below are the two contracts I’ve been pouring over today (ironically during my contracts class).  Enjoy.

AB Regional Sports Commission So Con Tournament Contract

Cone Contract_2011

For those familiar with the Butch Davis saga at UNC, there are two scenarios (aside from resigning in disgrace, which please, save us all the trouble and do) under which the University can terminate its agreement with Janet Cone: termination with cause and termination without cause.  One’s much harder to prove, and another is much more expensive.

Obviously, a school with an endowment of only 27 million dollars would prefer to take the route that is less expensive: for cause termination.  Under that portion of Cone’s contract, the University would only owe her her salary up to the date of termination.  In other words: no severence.

On the other hand, if the University were to terminate Cone’s contract without cause, then the University would pay her what is known as “liquidated damages,” which is not just a new TV show on the CW.  It’s an agreed upon amount that the University will pay to Cone if they terminate her employment without cause.  In this case, the University will pay the balance of her salary for the remaining period of her contract.  Cone’s contract extends from now until May 31, 2015 with an extension option till 2017.  Cone’s salary is $125,000/year.  Thus, if UNC Asheville were to terminate their AD tomorrow without cause, they would owe Cone at least $425,000 (3 full years plus 5 months pro-rated).  This is assuming that her salary will not increase, as the General Assembly in Raleigh has the authority to increase her pay grade for cost of living, etc.

So what reasons can UNC Asheville give for terminating Ms. Cone’s contract with cause?  well…

  • “Failure to carry out assigned duties.”
  • violation of major NCAA, conference, or University regulations, policies, etc.
  • a guilty felony conviction
  • “misconduct of the director”

The contract states that reasons are “not limited” to the enumerated causes, suggesting that this is a floor rather than a ceiling.

The easiest avenue (assuming that Ms. Cone, being an upstanding member of the community, has not committed any felonies recently) for the university to pursue would be to terminate Ms. Cone’s contract for failure to perform her assigned duties, specifically the “effective management of fiscal, physical, and human resources.”

In addition to being UNC Asheville’s athletic director, Ms. Cone is also the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commisison, the organization which brought the Southern Conference Tournament to Asheville and which contracted with the University to allow the women’s quarterfinals to take place in Kimmel.  While this position does not fall under the contract since Ms. Cone is presumably not paid for her work, her role with ABRSC does present a conflict of interest that may have negatively impacted her “effective management of fiscal [and] physical . . . resources” in negotiating the SoCon Tournament sites.

Those members of the UNC Asheville community who want a change at the AD position must achieve two things now: the political capital necessary to make Ms. Cone’s position as AD untenable AND either the legal avenue to terminate her with cause or the financial resources to pay both her salary and the salary of a new athletics director.

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3 thoughts on “It’s going to be hard to fire Janet Cone

  1. Page 3 of 11- Other Duites of Section B. Item 3- states exactly what failed to occur. Clearly that is THE issue at hand- failing to ensure that the facilities are available first & foremost to students, the university, and the athletic department.

    That is just cause..

  2. Concur with all thoughts…still skimming through this thing. While not financially ideal you could re-assign her to a position she’ll hate and hope she declines. Not that he university would do this — but if she declines your free and clear.

    I don’t think it would be too difficult if you really wanted to — clearly there is cause… The question is does the board really want to?

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