State Supreme Court ruled UL-Lafayette did nothing wrong when firing former football coach Jerry Baldwin
LAFAYETTE - The state's high court has ruled that the University of Louisiana System and its Lafayette campus did not breach a former head football coach's contract when he was fired.
The state Supreme Court ruling reverses the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal that found in the former coach's favor over the contract issue.
A separate claim by Jerry Baldwin, where he alleges UL-Lafayette acted with racial bias and fired him because he's black, was not addressed in Wednesday's ruling.
The Advocate reports the 6-1 ruling held that Baldwin's contract had been honored in full when he was fired in November 2001. The firing followed a three-season record of six wins and 27 losses.
The Wednesday ruling was based on a section of Baldwin's contract obligating the university to honor its payment agreements but with "no guarantee or promise of continued employment," according to the nine-page ruling.
"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 payroll employee," Justice John Weimer wrote.
In an accompanying two-page dissent, Chief Justice Bernette Johnson sided with Baldwin's attorneys, who argued that the university breached a stipulation requiring a 30-day notice before the agreement could be terminated.
UL-Lafayette's attorneys argued that because Baldwin continued to receive payments and benefits until his contract expired Jan. 31, 2003, his contract never was terminated. Baldwin was released from his duties in a letter dated Nov. 27, 2001, which specified he was fired Nov. 26, the day before.
"The Supreme Court argued that there was somehow a separation between his role as a head coach on the sideline and his contract," said New Orleans attorney G. Karl Bernard, who is representing Baldwin.
Baldwin - the first black head coach of any 1-A program in Louisiana, where college football has been played since 1893 - has another standing claim against the university that he was fired for racial reasons.
That trial date has not been set.
He's now a pastor at New Living Word Ministries in Ruston.