Author: Rick Davis (Page 3 of 3)


In the crazy world of coaching many non-sports issues get pushed aside until later. Estate planning should not be one of those. Today we will briefly discuss why most of you need some sort of estate plan in place, what major components of that plan you need to consider, and how much of your time it will take.


We all know that estate planning is a way to determine who gets what from you when you die. What many people fail to realize is that the process is also used to express your wishes for the care of your minor children, the protection of your assets from your spouse’s future creditors and/or future spouses, the limitation of estate and gift taxes, and the development of your charitable legacy.


Every good estate plan includes at least three documents: 1) a testamentary instrument such as a trust or a will detailing your wishes for the care of your loved ones and the transfer of your assets; 2) an advance healthcare directive or living will directing your care should you become incapacitated and no longer able to express your desires for your healthcare; and 3) a durable power of attorney to allow another individual to step into your shoes in managing your financial interests.


My obvious answer to this question is NOW! We don’t know when we will need these documents, and when we do, it is too late to draft them. I am not naive enough to think that you are all going to begin the process in the middle of the season. However, if done well, a simple estate plan will take much less of your time than you believe. Take care of it soon. If not for your own peace of mind, do it for your loved ones.



The date was December 2, 2003. I was practicing law in West Palm Beach and had flown from my firm’s offices to Starkville, Mississippi for a press conference where Sylvester Croom was being introduced as the head football coach at Mississippi State University. Sly is a close friend. We both graduated from high school in 1971 and signed football scholarships to play for Coach Bryant at Alabama. We roomed across the hall from each other our freshman year and we were elected co-captains following our senior season in 1974. I wasn’t attending the press conference just as a friend and former teammate, Sylvester was our client. History was being made that day in Starkville – until December 2, 2003, no Southeastern Conference football program had named an African American as its head coach. Mississippi State President Dr. Charles Lee, Athletics Director Larry Templeton and other leaders at Mississippi State changed all of that. Here’s how it happened.

In mid October 2003 Mississippi State head football coach Jackie Sherrill released a statement that he would be retiring at the end of the 2003 football season. Sherrill’s action was prompted by an NCAA investigation for violations of recruiting rules by boosters and members of the Bulldogs football staff. Just seven months earlier Sly and Mike Shula had been finalists to be the head football coach at the University of Alabama. Alabama made the decision to hire Shula and Sly, while disappointed, continued to coach the running backs with the Green Bay Packers. After Sherrill’s announcement in October I called Sylvester and asked if he would be interested in the position in Starkville. He wasn’t sure but we agreed that it wouldn’t hurt to reach out to Mississippi State to see what their thoughts were and learn more about their situation. I didn’t know Bulldogs’ Athletics Director Larry Templeton but I called a friend of Sly’s and mine who knew Templeton well and asked if he would call Larry. He said he would and ten minutes later our friend called back and said he had talked with Templeton and Templeton wanted me to call him. I called and during that first conversation in October Larry said he and Dr. Lee had followed the coaching search at Alabama and had been impressed with Sylvester. Templeton said Mississippi State would have to go through the process but they had done their due diligence and Sly was who they wanted to hire. A month and a half later Sylvester Croom was the head football coach at Mississippi State.

Sly inherited a football program that had suffered through three straight losing seasons (total of 8 wins) and was going on NCAA probation. His first task was to clean things up and to do it the right way was going to take time. In 2007 the Bulldogs won 8 games, including the Liberty Bowl, and Sly was named the SEC Coach of the Year. The win total dropped to 4 in 2008 but with a new athletics director in place in Starkville, Sly was forced out.

Working with and assisting a coach as he and his family make career decisions has always been an exciting part of what I do but Sylvester and Jeri Croom’s move to Mississippi State stands out from all of the rest. My personal relationship with Sly and Jeri coupled with the historical significance of the hire made it very special! As Sly said in Starkville on December 2, 2003, “with interaction and communication, the walls can come tumbling down.” That happened in Starkville – and it opened the door for Joker Phillips at Kentucky, Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M and James Franklin and Derek Mason at Vanderbilt.

Click HERE to read an article by Mark Bradley in the December 3, 2003 Atlanta Journal-Constitution

If you have any questions or comments, you can reach me on my cell (561-662-3251) or my office (205-874-0368) or you can email me at or you can reach Jonathan Shugart on his cell (334-559-6906) or his office (205-874-0396) or you can email him at



High Fives to LSU head football coach Les Miles!

LSU’s Les Miles took time out of preparing for this week’s game against Western Kentucky to talk running backs and eternity with a Mountain Brook teen who is now home from the hospital under hospice care. Click HERE to read the article.

If you have any questions or comments, you can reach me on my cell (561-662-3251) or my office (205-874-0368) or you can email me at or you can reach Jonathan Shugart on his cell (334-559-6906) or his office (205-874-0396) or you can email him at web page monitoring .



High Fives to J. B. Grimes, offensive line coach at Auburn University!

J.B. had surgery to remove a cancerous spot on his tongue and his lymph nodes on a Wednesday, and was on the field the following Monday for the start of football practice in August. Here’s the article – take a minute and read the impact J.B. has had on his players.

If you have any questions or comments, you can reach me on my cell (561-662-3251) or my office (205-874-0368) or you can email me at or you can reach Jonathan Shugart on his cell (334-559-6906) or his office (205-874-0396) or you can email him at


Jonathan’s Introduction

IMG_2313Most of you know Rick, but have no clue who I am.


While I love all things sports, I am not a former professional athlete, or even a college letterman. I have not built a 30-something year practice working with the likes of Payne Stewart and Bobby Bowden. However, Rick is convinced that my education, experience, and skillsets can add value to the services we provide and asked me to join his practice group at our firm. I’m excited to see that happen as I continue to build relationships with our coaches and others in our industry who keep coaches on the field doing what they love.


Ok, so who am I? I am husband to Jenna, father to Emery and Anne Payton, and an attorney at Wallace Jordan. I grew up in a small town in northeast Alabama. I received my undergraduate degree from Auburn University, my law degree from the University of Alabama, and my masters of tax law from the University of Florida. When I am not at the office, church, watching sports, or having a tea party with my girls, I can probably be found quail hunting over my pup, Mason, playing golf, or chasing down some rare bourbon.


What am I going to contribute to our coaches, their families, and this blog? Primarily, I will add insight into three areas: planning, contract negotiation, and dispute resolution.
Much of my tax education focused on estate, business, and tax exempt entity planning. Most major decisions we make in life have tax consequences. We can reactively face the tax consequences of our actions, or we can proactively plan in hopes to minimize and/or postpone the tax burden. I spend a lot of time learning creative ways for my clients to do the latter.
I negotiate agreements and draft contracts almost daily. While Rick knows the ins and outs of coaching contracts, we both believe that my experience in other industries, from the purchase of car dealerships to the hiring of physicians, can bring new, fresh perspectives and ideas to coaching contract negotiation and drafting.
Finally, disputes happen. Negotiations break down, relationships deteriorate, and people part ways. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is passionately advocating for my client without scorching the earth in the process. It is easy to focus on short term needs and desires at the expense of long term wellbeing. The best advocates are able to maintain focus on both and advise clients accordingly.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about me. I look forward to sharing some of my thoughts and experiences with you.

What’s In Your Contract?

Samuel Jackson is well known for his “WHAT’S IN YOUR WALLET?” Capital One credit card commercials. Occasionally we’ll take a look at specific provisions that are common in coaches’ employment agreements and when we do, we’ll play off Samuel Jackson’s commercial and our question will be “WHAT’S IN YOUR CONTRACT?

Whats in your wallet

Employment agreements can be terminated “with cause” (neglect of duties, violation of NCAA or conference rules, etc.) or “without cause” (primarily not winning enough games) and the main difference between the two is the employer doesn’t owe the coach anything when he is terminated “with cause”. Today we’re going to look at what happens in the event a coach is terminated “without cause”. The language in the agreement dealing with termination “without cause” will vary from contract to contract but here’s an example of a provision that could be in your employment agreement (it’s called an “off-set” clause):

If the employment agreement is terminated “without cause” prior to its expiration, Employer shall be obligated to continue to pay Coach all monies due for the remaining term of the agreement. Coach shall have a duty to mitigate his contractual damages by seeking other employment and Employer’s obligation to Coach shall be reduced by any income earned by Coach between the date of termination and the end of the term of this agreement. Note – some agreements say that if Coach takes any job (no matter how much it pays) Employer does not owe Coach anything for the remaining term of the agreement!

Let’s look at an example of how the “reduction” or “off-set” plays out in the real world:

  • You’re the head coach at State U and you have a five-year contract paying you a total of $500,000 a year (and your contract includes the above-referenced “off-set” provision).
  • At the end of the second year of the contract, State U hires a new athletics director and the new AD decides to make a coaching change and he/she terminates your contract “without cause”. When that happens, State U still owes you $500,000 a year for the three years left on your contract.
  • Two weeks after you leave State U you get a call from East College to be the offensive coordinator and they sign you to a three-year contract paying $300,000 a year.
  • With the above-referenced “off-set” provision in your contract State U gets to reduce what it owes you ($500,000/year) by what East College is paying you ($300,000/year) – so instead of having to pay you $500,000 a year for the next three years ($1,500,000) State U only owes you $200,000 a year for the next three years ($600,000). That’s a difference of $900,000!!!

Obviously State U wants the “off-set” provision in your contract (or even better, the provision that says if you take a job they don’t owe you anything) and more than likely the “term sheet” (if State U uses one) or the initial draft of your employment agreement will have one of those provisions (or something similar) in it. Like anything else in the “term sheet” or the contract, though, this is an item that you can attempt to get your employer to change. Will they? It depends – how much leverage do you have, how hard are you willing to push, or how badly do you want the job.

Ellis Johnson is a client of ours and several years ago we worked with him when he was named the head coach at Southern Miss. We knew the contract of the previous head coach at Southern Miss contained an “off-set” provision and from the very beginning we told Southern Miss we would not agree to any “off-set” in relation to termination “without cause”. Southern Miss agreed to remove that provision from Coach Johnson’s contract. Unfortunately, Ellis was terminated “without cause” after his first year. While we were disappointed with the decision made by Southern Miss, Ellis was hired as the defensive coordinator at another program at a salary higher than what Southern Miss was paying him … and Southern Miss remained obligated to pay Coach Johnson the total amount owed for the final three years of his Southern Miss contract ($700,000 x 3 years = $2,100,000). This isn’t confidential – here’s an article discussing the situation. LINK TO ARTICLE

Usually only a head coach will be able to get the “off-set” provision taken out of their contract but I have seen situations when an assistant coach (coordinator) was able to have it removed. As I said earlier, how much leverage do you have, how hard are you willing to push, or how badly do you want the job.

If you have any questions or comments, you can reach me on my cell (561-662-3251) or my office (205-874-0368) or you can email me at or you can reach Jonathan Shugart on his cell (334-559-6906) or his office (205-874-0396) or you can email him at




High Fives to the University of Alabama, Coach Saban and Director of Player Personnel Jody Wright!

Alyson Wigal and her five children enjoyed a rare treat this past weekend in memory of Alyson’s husband Stephen, the family’s sole provider who was killed in an automobile accident on June 15. After learning of the Wigal family and their love for Crimson Tide football, the University of Alabama invited Josiah and Seth Wigal, players on the Satsuma High football team, to the Alabama – Arkansas game as recruits. Here’s the article – take a minute and read it.

If you have a question or comment, you can reach me on my cell (561-662-3251) or my office (205-874-0368) or you can email me at or Jonathan Shugart on his cell (334-559-6906) or his office (205-874-0396 or you can email him at

What Makes Someone a Successful Coach?

Take a look at these three teams (one NFL, one college basketball and one college football) and the difference a new head coach had on the program:

Green Bay Packers                 131203180248-vince-lombardi-jerry-kramer-nlc-00123-single-image-cut (2)

Pre-Vince Lombardi           1950 – 1958      32-74-2             0 championships

Vince Lombardi                     1959 – 1967      98-30-4             5 championships

UCLA                                        Wooden


Pre-John Wooden              1921 – 1948       266-279                0 national championships

John Wooden                        1948 – 1975      620-147                10 national championships

Alabama                                   Bear


Pre-Paul Bryant                   1955 – 1957        4-24-2             0 national championships

Paul Bryant                             1958 – 1982       232-46-9        6 national championships

What was it about Vince Lombardi, John Wooden and Coach Bryant that changed the culture at Green Bay, UCLA and Alabama from one of losing games to one where they were competing for and winning championships? Several years ago best-selling author John Maxwell wrote an article titled Characteristics of Successful Coaches where Maxwell says despite their different personalities and coaching techniques, “great coaches share a common set of characteristics that make them successful”. I think you’ll agree with the points Dr. Maxwell makes. Click HERE for the article.

After you finish Maxwell’s piece, I would encourage you to read a great article Ivan Maisel wrote for ESPN in 2013 about Coach Bryant in honor of what would have been Coach’s 100th birthday (September 11, 2013). Here’s a quote from Coach Saban that’s in the article – “I think the one thing I’ve learned about him (Coach Bryant) that makes me appreciate him more, because it’s something that means a lot to me as a coach, is how many stories his former players tell about lessons that they learned in life. They talk about the discipline, the toughness, and all those kinds of things that really have helped them perservere [through] a lot of circumstances and situations in their life. So that, to me, is the ultimate compliment to a coach.” I had the opportunity to play for Coach Bryant (1971-1974) and he pushed us to be winners on the field (regular season record of 43-1, 4 SEC championships and 1 national championship) and, as Coach Saban said, in life. I understand how important it is to win – if you don’t you won’t keep your job. But I played for a man who won championships and was also concerned with preparing his players for life after their playing days were over. You can do both. Wooden did it at UCLA and Lombardi did it at Green Bay. That, in my opinion, is really what makes a coach “great”. Click HERE for the article.


If you have a question or comment, you can reach me on my cell (561-662-3251) or my office (205-874-0368) or you can email me at or Jonathan Shugart on his cell (334-559-6906) or his office (205-874-0396 or you can email him at

Welcome to Coaches’ Corner


Welcome to Wallace, Jordan, Ratliff & Brandt Coaches’ Corner. Since this is our first blog post probably a good way to start is for us to tell you who we are and what we’ll be doing in this blog.

My name is Rick Davis and I lead the sports management practice area at the law firm Wallace, Jordan, Ratliff & Brandt in Birmingham, Alabama where we represent college and professional coaches and administrators. I’ve been representing coaches and administrators since I began practicing law with the late Robert Fraley in 1983.

Rick DavisRobert Fraley

Robert and I had been teammates at Alabama (we were freshmen in 1971) and while I was playing in the NFL Robert had gone to and graduated from law school. Robert encouraged me to go to law school when my playing days ended and our plan was that when I graduated we would start our own firm. Well, I followed Robert’s advice. I graduated from law school in December 1982 and moved to Orlando, Florida where Robert and I started our firm. In January 1983 we jumped right into the business of representing coaches.

Ray PerkinsCoach Bryant retired at Alabama after the 1982 season and Ray Perkins was named the head coach. Robert and I didn’t know Ray but we had friends who did and they were able to set up a meeting for us with Ray. Robert and I thought the fact that he and I were teammates and had played football at Alabama for Coach Bryant would score some points with Coach Perkins since he had also played in Tuscaloosa for Coach Bryant. Well, something worked because despite the fact that Robert and I had never represented coaches before (I don’t remember if that came up in our initial meeting with Ray or not!!) we were successful in convincing Ray we could handle things for him. He gave us that chance and we had our first coach as a client!

bryantpaulbioThere have been tremendous changes in college and professional sports, both on the field as well as from a business standpoint, since Robert and I first began working with Coach Perkins in 1983. What I’ve learned from those experiences, and what I learned as a player at Alabama and in the NFL about what it takes to compete and be successful in college and professional sports, have put us in a unique position to provide counsel and advice to college and professional coaches and administrators. In Coaches’ Corner we’ll review specific situations we’ve been involved in so the people who read our blog can hopefully learn something from those experiences. We’ll also talk about a wide range of topics that we think you’ll be interested in – things like evaluating job opportunities, preparing for interviews, dealing with search firms, and important issues in employment agreements. Those of you who know me know that I like to share motivational and inspirational information and materials I’ve found and been exposed to over the years that might help you at work and at home. Because when it’s all said and done, our primary goal is for Coaches’ Corner to be a resource to help make you a better husband or wife, mom or dad, son or daughter, coach, administrator and teacher.

We’re excited and look forward to sharing our thoughts and experiences with you. If you have a question or comment, you can reach me on my cell (561-662-3251) or my office (205-874-0368) or you can email me at

*Photos courtesy of the Bryant Museum

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