KSU won't pay 'secret agreement'

Updated: May 20, 2009, 8:09 PM ET
By Tim Griffin | ESPN.com

Kansas State filed suit Wednesday, asking the Riley (Kan.) District Court to declare a "secret agreement" that would provide $3.2 million in deferred payments to former head football coach Ron Prince invalid.

The school alleges in the suit that the contract was signed by former KSU athletic director Robert Krause with Prince without the knowledge of KSU president Jon Wefald.

If the contract is found valid, it would provide the money to Prince in payments of $800,000 in 2015, $800,000 in 2016 and $1.6 million in 2020.

Prince was fired last Nov. 5, four days after the Wildcats lost 52-21 at Kansas. The Wildcats finished the season by losing two and winning their final game with Prince, who elected to coach for the rest of the 5-7 season.

The contract extension had been approved before the season between Prince and Krause, who was reassigned from his job as athletic director in March to be the director of KSU's new academic research campus. Krause resigned from that job Wednesday at the request of Wefald, the school announced.

The school alleges that Prince's agent, Neil Cornrich, impermissibly negotiated the contract extension directly with Krause. KSU's nine-page suit alleges that under ethics rules Cornrich was required to obtain information from KSU lawyers before the negotiations could take place.

Interim KSU athletic director James Epps said he learned of the agreement last week.

"This deal was apparently constructed as a further supplement to the buyout provision contained in Prince's employment contract," Epps said in a prepared statement. "I do not know why any additional supplement was justified, or why Bob Krause concealed this agreement from everyone until it was inadvertently discovered last week.

"I don't believe the agreement is valid, and the athletics department will vigorously fight any attempt to enforce it."

According to a release issued by the school, Epps informed Wefald of the secret agreement as soon as he learned of it.

"I was shocked and saddened to find out about this agreement," Wefald said. "No one in central administration or athletics knew about this agreement. We all thought that the August 2008 press release accurately described Ron Prince's one-year contract extension and his salary increase from $750,000 to $1.1 million. We thought that any compensation he was owed was in that contract."

The details of the agreement weren't available to auditors who performed an exit analysis for the board of regents until after Wefald announced his retirement. The Manhattan Mercury reported Wednesday that KSU officials learned of the agreement while responding to routine informational requests in a lawsuit involving one of Prince's former assistant football coaches.

Wefald took responsibility for the hiring of Krause, who had never worked in an athletic director's position before taking the KSU job.

"This happened on my watch," said Wefald, who will be retiring as KSU president on June 30. "I appointed Bob Krause to be athletic director. He has been a longtime friend. I regret deeply and apologize that this happened while I was president."

Prince finished 17-20 in three seasons at KSU. It was the the second-shortest coaching tenure in Big 12 history behind the two seasons Dave Roberts coached at Baylor.

Prince's time at Kansas State was marked by a few notable highs. Prince upset highly ranked Texas teams in 2006 and 2007, using the victory in his first season as a springboard into the Texas Bowl. That was the most recent bowl appearance for the KSU program.

Before the 2008 season, Prince negotiated a five-year contract extension with the school that was retroactive to Jan. 1, 2008, and extended through Dec. 31, 2012. That contract provided a $1.2 million buyout.

After his firing at KSU, Prince resurfaced as special-teams coach at Virginia. Prince had been a member of Al Groh's staff for five years before taking the KSU job.

Former Kansas State coach Bill Snyder ended a three-season retirement to come back and replace Prince. Former Tennessee executive associate athletic director John Currie was introduced Monday as KSU's new athletic director.

Tim Griffin covers college football for ESPN.com. You may contact him at espntimgriff@yahoo.com.

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