Monday, January 26, 2009

Non-Competes and College Football

When University of Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino suggested non-compete agreements for assistant coaches might be on the horizon, the irony was apparent. Petrino left Louisville for the NFL's Atlanta Falcons in December 2007 then bolted 13 games into his tenure with Atlanta for Arkansas. Nevertheless, Petrino was upset defensive coach Lorenzo Ward was leaving for South Carolina. Petrino's own contract restricts him from accepting employment with a South Eastern Conference school in the western division until 2012, but non-competes are not common for assistants. This week Petrino announced the hiring of a new assistant coach with no mention of a non-compete.

The enforceability of non-compete agreements varies from state to state. Would an assistant coach non-compete be enforceable in Texas? Texas non-competes must comply with Section 15.50 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code.

Typically an employment based non-compete is used to prevent former employees from using company trade-secrets in a competing venture. What would the trade secret be for a coach? Strategies and plays are evident during every game. There is no secret Coke-like formula, though I'm sure a creative lawyer could find something to hang their client's hat on for purposes of filing suit. Mark Cuban claimed former coach Don Nelson used Mavericks' secrets when the Warriors defeated his team in the first round of the 2006 playoffs.

For now, Petrino will have to get used to assistant coaches leaving. Of course, Lorenzo Ward didn't leave his team during the middle of the season.

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