Although he had two years remaining on his contract, Kennesaw State is paying Jimmy Lallathin $105,000 to step down as men’s basketball coach after a tempestuous final few weeks with the university.
The parties reached the agreement on April 24, the same day Lallathin submitted a letter of resignation and over a month after the athletic department announced that Lallathin would no longer coach the team after 1 1/2 seasons.
Details of his departure were obtained from a copy of the agreement The Atlanta Journal-Constitution received through an open records request.
The agreement ended a long and curious saga after it appeared that Lallathin might be turning around the program. The Owls went 10-22 in his only full season, after going a combined 9-52 the previous two years. The season ended with three discouraging lop-sided losses by an average of margin of 26.7 points.
Lallathin’s payoff raises questions, primarily: Why would the university pay a coach whose contract didn’t include a buyout clause and whose staff was found to have committed at least five NCAA violations with another possible violation under investigation?
Athletic director Vaughn Williams declined to comment through a university spokesman. Lallathin, who has since been hired to coach St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, did not returned repeated recent texts.
Williams described a breach of trust with Lallathin and concerns about NCAA violations in a letter to Lallathin dated March 19, also obtained through the request.
In that letter, Williams referenced an earlier conversation in which Williams said he told Lallathin that he could resign rather than be fired.
Williams noted that because Lallathin chose not to resign, the university’s legal department would investigate the program. Williams also indicated Lallathin would be reassigned within the athletics department, a move KSU announced on March 23.
The results of that investigation, announced by the university on Tuesday, found one new possible NCAA violation related to “impermissible benefits related to food, gas, and possibly housing and cash provided to a prospect.”
Lallathin’s lawyer, John Stachler, said they weren’t aware that Kennesaw State had released its findings.
“Jimmy served KSU well and has cooperated fully in all respects, as evidenced by the agreement entered into by Jimmy and KSU provided by the university through Georgia public records request,” Stachler wrote in an email on Wednesday. “Jimmy considers this matter closed and wishes the KSU program and its student-athletes success in the future.”
The university has notified the NCAA of the possible violation and has asked for guidance on how to proceed before an official report is submitted. If submitted, it would be at least the sixth rules violation either by Lallathin or a member of his staff during his tenure. Kennesaw State said the first four were deemed to be NCAA Level III breach of conduct violations, the third-least severe infraction in the NCAA’s four-tired structure.
- A donor paying for four players’ meals at a Cracker Barrel. KSU stipulated the players donate the cost of the meal ($18.75) to a charity.
- An impermissible workout of a player in July 2014. KSU suspended assistant coach Jon Cremins for two games and Lallathin for a game. Another member of the staff was also suspended for three games.
- Impermissible tweets by a player in late July and early August regarding unofficial visits by two junior college players. The player was suspended for two practices in October.
- Two players wearing impermissible Adidas apparel before and during games in late December and early January. A letter of admonishment was placed in Lallathin’s personnel file on Jan. 7.
A fifth violation involving an impermissible loan to an athlete for rent and for retrieving his car from impoundment has been submitted to the NCAA.
The organization has yet to issue a ruling on the matter, but Kennesaw State suspended Lallathin, Cremins, assistants David Rivers and Paul O’Connor and director of operations Drew McGhee for one game over the incident. All the suspensions were served by Dec. 31.
Also within the correspondences between Stachler and KSU was an allegation by Lallathin that former coach Lewis Preston paid his players for good grades. Lallathin was an assistant on Preston’s staff. Preston took a leave of absence from the program in January 2014 for what was described as medical and personal reasons.
He and Kennesaw State agreed he shouldn’t return in March 2014, paving the way for Lallathin to be promoted.
A university spokesman said they could find no evidence to confirm the Preston allegation during the investigation.
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