Steve Alford may have ditched arid Albuquerque for the swanky confines of Westwood, but New Mexico isn't ready to sever all ties with their former head coach just yet.
Lost in the media maelstrom two prolific coaches caused when they changed programs (FGCU's Andy Enfield to USC being the other) is the 10-year deal Alford signed with New Mexico just days before UCLA came knocking with a decidedly better deal. Upon signing a term sheet, a $1 million dollar buyout was added to the contract that would hold Alford financially responsible if he were to leave before the ten years were up.
There was confusion, however, in regards to when that buyout actually kicked in. The new contract wasn't going to take effect until April 1--well after Alford had already agreed to terms with UCLA--so Alford may have only been expected to pay a significantly smaller amount for reneging on the deal (his previous buyout was $150,000).
Not so, say New Mexico's lawyers. They claim Alford's termination required at least 30 days notice, legally placing his last day of employment on April 29--well after the April 1 effective date and putting Alford on the hook for every penny of the $1 million. A letter delivered to Alford by UNM University Counsel threatened breach of employment if the buyout was not paid in full by the April 29 deadline.
Alford and his agent have not provided comment, but the Albuquerque Journal's Geoff Grammer did have this to add:
Typically, a coach’s new employer pays the buyout to the coach’s previous school. It has been reported in this instance that UCLA is working with New Mexico and with Alford to pay the buyout.