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USA Today files lawsuit in Nebraska District Court against UNL

NCAA FOOTBALL: JAN 10 College Football Playoff National Championship - Media Day Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

USA Today filed a lawsuit in Lancaster District Court over a public-records request denial by the University of Nebraska Athletic Department. The Nebraska Cornhuskers over the past academic year renegotiated existing contracts with football head coach Scott Frost and men’s basketball head coach Fred Hoiberg after multiple seasons in a row of record breaking performances of the wrong kind, aka lots of losses.

USA Today, along with a host of other news outlets, filed public-records requests with the UNL director of records Jaclyn Klintoe over information pertaining to the new contract details. Nebraska denied the request and the Nebraska Attorney General Elizabeth O. Gau concluded on appeal to her office that they could be lawfully withheld under Nebraska public-records statutes.

Long since that Dec. 13 decision by the Nebraska AG in relation to the Lincoln Journal Star, Gannett Satellite Information Network LLC, which publishes USA Today, on Friday filed suit in Lancaster District Court over the denial of reporter Steve Berkowitz’s requests for records related to the “metrics mutually agreed to” in the head football coach’s and men’s basketball coach’s restructured contracts.

The suit follows an April request by Berkowitz requesting Frost’s records and a May request for Hoiberg’s. In denying the request, Klintoe states that State law provides an exception from disclosure for “personal information in records regarding personnel of public bodies other than salaries and routine directory information.”

Attorney Michael Coyle, who is representing USA Today in the lawsuit filed earlier today, alleges that the requested records contain information that determines the amount of Frost’s and Hoiberg’s salaries “and are therefore encompassed within the meaning of ‘salary information.’”

What is publicly known regarding the renegotiated contracts is that Frost’s absurdly overpaid salary based on performance was dropped a measly $1 million down to $4 million per year in 2022 with a “smaller” buyout if he is fired after the 2022 season or an opportunity to restore his salary to $5 million in 2023 if he meets certain “metrics.” Metrics have not been defined to the public.

By comparison, Frost is just below Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck’s salary of $4.42 and Illinois’ Bret Bielema’s $4.2 million. He ranks ahead of Paul Chryst’s $3.98 million at Wisconsin; Greg Schiano’s $3.76 million at Rutgers; and Maryland’s Mike Locksley who earns $2.47 million a year.

Hoiberg’s salary was also reduced from $3.5 million down to $3.25 million, gave up a $500,000 retention bonus, and his buyout was reduced from $15 million after next season to $11 million. Similarly undisclosed “metrics” for team performance were also included in this renegotiation.

Hoiberg’s new contract puts him at No. 7 in the league just behind NU’s Chris Collins $3.262 million and ahead of Purdue’s Matt Painter who brings in $3.225 million (based on reported 2021-22 salaries of which Penn State’s Micah Shrewsburry was unavailable). Overall, Hoiberg similarly agreed to a light salary cut based on current performance, but at least has a season less timewise in Lincoln and a long and successful tenure at Iowa State last decade.