John Wade’s voluntary resignation as Eastern Washington University men’s basketball coach turned out to be a firing.
The settlement that didn’t exist turned out to be for $75,000.
Now, the three-year contract Wade signed before last season turns out to have been for just one year. Only neither Wade nor the university knew it, apparently because neither had read it.
Confused? Take a number.
A copy of the contract, provided Wednesday by Carl Maxey, Wade’s attorney, shows Wade was hired from July 1, 1994 through June 30, 1995 - even though EWU announced Wade’s contract as a three-year extension.
Ken Dolan, executive assistant to EWU president Mark Drummond, admitted Wednesday he hadn’t read the contract, dated June 8, 1994 and bearing his signature. Dolan said he had assumed it was for three years.
“John was to receive a three-year contract. Why that didn’t happen - because Mark (Drummond) said it and (athletic director) John Johnson said it publicly - I can’t explain to you why a three-year contract was not issued.”“It is my signature on the contract,”
Dolan explained. “I should have obviously caught it at the time. I was probably signing a whole series of contracts and wasn’t paying attention to what I was signing, which isn’t a very good excuse.”
Whether the contract was for one, three or 20 years, the status of Wade’s settlement is unchanged.
Nevertheless, Maxey said the false sense of security prompted Wade to purchase a home in Cheney.
“He was told the contract had been changed,” said Maxey. “When he found out he didn’t have a three-year contract, he was shocked beyond redemption.”
Dolan maintained that Wade’s contract was for three years, no matter what it said. “We have never as an institution argued that there was anything other than a threeyear contract,” Dolan said.
That was news to Maxey, who said EWU threatened to make the one-year deal binding during negotiations.
When Dolan and Johnson told Wade last month that he would be fired as coach and reassigned within the university, Wade felt he was being treated disparately because he is black, Maxey said.
“I’ve never heard of this happening to another coach,” Maxey offered.
Wade, 34-98 in five seasons at EWU, refused the reassignment and retained Maxey. The attorney used Wade’s racial discrimination claim during negotiations that resulted in the $75,000 settlement.According to Maxey, Wade was gracious in agreeing to settle for $75,000 - 20 percent less than the $90,000 in total salary he would have been paid the next two years.
After being fired as head coach, Wade resigned from the university as part of the settlement. At the time, Johnson insisted Wade had not been forced out as coach and had instead chosen to resign. Johnson also said there was no settlement.
The facts would eventually show otherwise. Dolan’s office reluctantly released the settlement April 10, revealing Wade’s discrimination charge for the first time. Johnson did not return calls Wednesday.
Wade and Maxey initially wouldn’t elaborate on the discrimination charge.
Wednesday, Maxey commented on the alleged discrimination, saying he had been assured by EWU that his comments would not jeopardize the settlement. The university has until July 10 to pay the $75,000.
Even with EWU’s assurance, Maxey did not document a specific instance of racial discrimination against Wade, saying only, “I and John Wade felt he was treated differently (because his is black). It doesn’t matter if you feel he was discriminated against. He did.”
The failure to be specific has fueled speculation Maxey may have used the claim as leverage in negotiating the settlement. Maxey denied that suggestion.
“I have to commend the president of Eastern and Ken Dolan for recognizing a three-year contract that didn’t exist in writing,” he said.
By including racial discrimination in the settlement, Wade is not required to pay income tax on the $75,000. Maxey, who said he offered to take the case for free before agreeing to accept $2,000 at Wade’s insistence, strongly denied that was a motive.
Still, a letter Maxey sent to Dolan during negotiations suggests the tax issue was important.
The letter reads, in part: “By the time Dr. Drummond had agreed to the contract buy-out amount, the complaint for damages was being drafted to include a claim for damages for racial discrimination … Damages under these causes of action are exempt from income under Internal Revenue Code 104. We must come up with some language in the settlement agreement to communicate this that you would find acceptable.”