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UH regents approve $700,000 settlement with ex-coach Arnold

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KAHULUI » The University of Hawaii Board of Regents approved a $700,000 settlement package with former men’s basketball coach Gib Arnold over his firing a year ago, with $500,000 paid to Arnold over three years.

The regents voted 8-6 Thursday afternoon in favor of the settlement, which also includes $200,000 for Arnold’s attorneys.

The board, which by policy must approve settlement agreements in excess of $500,000, discussed the tentative deal in a closed-door executive session at its monthly meeting at the UH-Maui College campus.

“We are happy we’ve reached a resolution here to move forward. It will be good to put this behind us,” UH-Manoa Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman said in a phone interview from Dallas. “The goal all along was to mitigate the impact to the (men’s basketball) program. This, I think, is a reasonable solution. In general, moving forward, I think it’s important for us to show our commitment to the highest levels of integrity and competence.” 

According to the UH, Arnold will receive $100,000 on Nov. 30; $200,000 on Jan. 15; and another $200,000 on Jan. 15, 2017. His attorneys will receive a $200,000 payment on Nov. 30.

Carrie Okinaga, UH general counsel, said $100,000 of the settlement will come from insurance, with the rest covered by the university’s risk management fund which she said exists “to account for unanticipated losses, settlements.”

Additionally, she said, the university expects its legal fees to settle the dispute will total about $250,000, which also will come from the risk management fund.

Okinaga said the university estimated its legal costs to take the matter through a trial, “even if we were to win entirely, probably could have exceeded the $700,000 just in and of itself.”

Arnold had been seeking $1.4 million from the university under a firing “without cause” clause in his 2011 contract. Attorneys involved in the case have said the settlement would be “global” in that it would cover all elements of the dispute and associated court actions.

The settlement is the largest ever reached with a former UH athletic department employee. By comparison, ex-football coach Greg McMackin was forced out in 2011 and accepted a $600,000 buyout, which UH negotiated down from the $1.1 million he was due in the final year of his contract.

UH announced Arnold’s termination Oct. 28, 2014, soon after the NCAA had substantially completed its eight-month investigation of the basketball program. A subsequent notice of allegations from the governing body of college athletics cited the program for seven violations.

The former coach had filed a grievance with his union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association, in February, seeking the $1.4 million under provisions of his contract.

The “Termination Without Cause” section of Arnold’s contract stated: “This Agreement may be terminated without cause upon ninety (90) days written notice to Coach. In such event, the University will pay as liquidated damages, a lump sum amount equal to the total amount of compensation earned under the terms of this Agreement as of the date of termination (incentives and extensions not achieved are not included in liquidated damages).”

UH filed a lawsuit in June claiming Arnold owed the school more than $2,000 for a past travel advance.

Honolulu attorney Jim Bickerton, who represented Arnold, said in a statement today, “Coach Gib is pleased that the case has settled and believes that the nature of the settlement — under which UH … has dropped all claims against him — answers many questions that the public had about this matter. The remaining questions the public has will soon be answered by the NCAA hearing process that has us in Dallas today.”

Arnold and UH representatives were scheduled to appear at a closed-door hearing, also today, in Dallas before the NCAA Committee on Infractions. UH officials said a ruling from the NCAA hearing is not expected for several months.

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