Court documents show that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick thought he was overpaying former Razorbacks head coach Bret Bielema when he worked for the Patriots — not underpaying him.
A new court filing Monday in Bielema’s $7 million lawsuit against the Razorback Foundation reveals that several successful coaches had joined Belichick’s staff for salaries as low as $15,000 — significantly lower than Bielema’s six-figure annual income, Sportico reports.
The Foundation insists that Bielema violated his contractual obligation to undertake “best efforts” to land a new job and to obtain market-based pay for that job.
Sportico reports that Bielema’s “best efforts” obligation to the Foundation comes from an excluded income provision, or carve-out, in his buyout.
Bielema was fired by Arkansas in 2017 and worked for the Patriots in 2018-19. He is now the head coach at Illinois.
“The provision expressed that Bielema could earn up to a range of $100,000 to $150,000 annually without that amount reducing the Foundation’s $12 million obligation,” the article details.
The focus of the Razorbacks’ argument is on Bielema joining the Patriots in 2018.
The Patriots initially hired Bielema as a draft consultant — he was later promoted to special assistant and then to assistant coach.
The Foundation claims Bielema’s salaries with the Patriots were below-market and “far below [what he] could have earned given his experience” and appear designed so he would be underpaid.
Bielema’s attorneys dispute that claim, arguing that he pursued several college jobs but didn’t land them.
The Patriots initially paid Bielema $25,000 as a consultant. He later earned salaries of $100,000 and $250,000 in full-time roles. He insists the Foundation owes him $7 million.
“The Foundation would then have to pay the difference, thereby saving the Patriots, which Sportico values at $4.97 billion, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars,” the article details. “Sealed emails between Belichick and Kraft, the Foundation maintains, support that theory.”
Enter Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
Bielema, who had just been fired by a college program, lacked NFL coaching experience when the Patriots hired him. Sportico reports that Bielema’s attorney states the Patriots normally pay new coaches without NFL experience between $15,000 and $65,000 a year — not the $100,000 that Bielema would be paid and that the Foundation claims.
An entire case built on the theory that Bielema was underpaid may actually be about overpaying. Sportico states the Foundation has yet to respond.