Former K-State athletic director describes Prince buyout deal

TOPEKA | Transcripts of a deposition given by former Kansas State University athletic director Bob Krause describe a last-minute rush to sign football coach Ron Prince to an extension, then a frenzied push a year later to get Prince to nullify part of that deal.

The Topeka Capital-Journal obtained transcripts of depositions given by Krause and others involved in a university lawsuit that seeks to invalidate Prince’s $3.2 million “secret agreement” for a buyout.

Prince was fired with three games left in the 2008 football season, only three months after signing a five-year extension.

Krause’s deposition paints a picture of how the buyout agreement, which was not included in the contract presented to then-president Jon Wefald, came about, and efforts to nullify it after the buyout deal became public in May 2009.

A two-page memorandum of understanding, which was locked in a file cabinet outside of Krause’s office and not included in the university’s “Book of Contracts” that contains employment agreements for all coaches, calls for Prince to receive $3.2 million of deferred payments starting in 2015.

After the deal became public, Krause met with Wefald and agreed to travel to Charlottesville, Va., to make a personal appeal to Prince. Krause paid his own travel expenses and represented himself, but not the university.

“(Wefald) expressed his displeasure and concern and asked me if there was anything I could do that might fix the dilemma,” Krause said. During the Charlottesville meeting, Krause offered to purchase a life insurance policy on his life and designate Prince as the beneficiary if Prince would nullify the buyout agreement.

Prince declined, leading to a legal battle with the university. Attorneys on both sides said there still has been no resolution.

Krause came up with the buyout plan after taking over negotiations with Prince from former athletic director Tim Weiser, who had begun talks with the coach in November 2007. Those talks broke down when Prince demanded a fully guaranteed contract.

After Krause assumed the athletic director duties upon Weiser’s departure, and Wefald told him to work quickly to resolve the impasse.

Krause said Wefald wanted the contract issues resolved before the start of the 2008 season. The two were concerned about negative publicity stemming from child abuse charges against running back Leon Patton.

Wefald feared a public backlash if the Patton story broke before Prince’s contract was extended, Krause said.

Krause said he developed the separate deferred compensation plan and discussed it only once with Wefald, by telephone, while the president was on vacation in July 2008.

Krause said Wefald didn’t raise any objections or ask questions.

Krause discussed his plan with his top aides, Jim Epps and Bob Cavello. Cavello raised reservations about the extension and deferred deal, Krause said, but the three eventually came to a consensus.

After Krause began negotiating the deal with Prince and his agent, he drafted the memorandum of understanding.

Cavello e-mailed Krause and Epps suggesting they share a summary of the contract with Mary Molt, chairwoman of Kansas State’s Intercollegiate Athletic Council.

“I assume we would not divulge the addendum to Mother Molt,” Epps replied.

After the contract was put into place, Krause and Wefald believed the Wildcats were poised for a breakthrough season, Prince’s third with the team.

But Kansas State lost a nonconference game at Louisville, got beat by Colorado and was crushed 52-21 by Kansas.

“He was very, very upset over the loss (to Kansas),” Krause said of Wefald, “and we began talking about termination.”

Prince was fired Nov. 5, 2008.

After the secret memorandum was made public in May 2009, Kansas State issued a statement saying it would challenge the deal. Epps, who was interim athletic director at the time, criticized Krause for the deal and suggested Krause had acted alone in devising it.

“This deal was apparently constructed as a further supplement to the buyout provision contained in Prince’s employment contract,” Epps said. “I do not know why any additional supplement was justified, or why Bob Krause concealed this agreement from everyone until it was inadvertently discovered last week.”

Epps and Cavello were placed on administrative leave in June 2009. Cavello eventually reached a settlement with the university, while Epps was still on leave when he gave his deposition in May.