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Auburn and former coach settle suit for $210,000

Updated:
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- The Terry Bowden era at Auburn was
officially closed Friday when the university agreed to pay $210,000
to former defensive coordinator Bill "Brother" Oliver, who
claimed he was promised Bowden's job.

Oliver, who acted as interim coach last year when Bowden quit
with five games left to play, had sued Auburn, athletic director
David Housel and influential trustee Bobby Lowder contending they
misled him.

After 12 hours of mediation between the parties, the settlement
was reached late Thursday night and announced Friday by Auburn
President William Muse.

"The payment in no way correlates to any of the specific
allegations made in the lawsuit," Muse said.

Oliver claimed he was promised the permanent head coach
position, which actually went to Tommy Tuberville. Oliver, a highly
regarded defensive coordinator who came to Auburn from Alabama in
1996, retired when it became clear he would not get it.

He then sued the school, claiming he was shortchanged on some
$112,000. The two sides were ordered into Thursday's mediation,
which was presided over by former Alabama Supreme Court Chief
Justice Sonny Hornsby.

"I did not want to have to bring a lawsuit and it should never
have come this far," Oliver said Friday. "I never had any desire
to harm the Auburn football team, and it is for that reason that I
feel it best for everyone that we put this matter behind us."

Muse said the $210,000 will come from the Greater Auburn Fund,
which is made up of private contributions from alumni and Auburn
supporters to help finance athletic programs.

Muse said the university did not agree with Oliver's claims but
agreed to settle the suit because it was going to be
"time-consuming, disruptive and expensive."

Rick Heartsill, a spokesman for the university, said the school
had figured "Tuberville would be starting his third season at
Auburn before the lawsuit would make its way through the courts."

Tuberville, formerly head coach at Mississippi, makes his debut
as the head Tiger coach Sept. 4 at Auburn against Appalachian
State.

"The university made a practical business decision," said
Housel. "...We're going to take the high road and move forward."

The settlement closes the Bowden era, which saw the school at
some of its highest and lowest times. Bowden won his first 20 games
at Auburn, then abruptly resigned last October as the team
struggled to a 1-5 record.

The Tigers finished the season 3-8, their worst record since
1952. The school then found itself embroiled in off-the-field
controversy, player arrests and Oliver's lawsuit.

"The Terry Bowden era is part of our history, but we are moving
forward now," Housel said. "We don't go anywhere by looking
back."

In affidavits filed this summer, Housel and Lowder both denied
promising the head coaching job to Oliver. But Housel did
acknowledge he told Oliver that the veteran defensive coordinator
was his choice for the job.

But Housel said he also told Oliver "that I could not promise
him the job because I did not have the authority to hire the new
coach; I only had the authority to make a recommendation to the
president."

Kenneth Ingram, Jr., an attorney for Oliver, said Friday that
Oliver had believed Housel would hire him.

"Brother comes from the old school, a time when a man's word
was his bond, when only a handshake was necessary and people did
what they said they would do," said Ingram.

He also said Oliver had no choice but to sue after his
"attempts to resolve things man-to-man were ignored."

Housel and Lowder, who is chief executive of Colonial Bank, also
denied in affidavits Oliver's claim that Auburn agreed to pay off a
loan Oliver received from Lowder's bank when he joined Bowden's
staff in 1996.

According to the suit, Housel orchestrated a $136,000 loan from
the bank, with Auburn to repay the loan over five years. The suit
said Oliver eventually got a $23,000 check toward the loan from
Auburn, but because of "taxes and deductions" the net amount was
only $13,500, and he is still owed $112,760.

Housel, however, said Auburn honored its one-year written
contract with Oliver and had no further obligations. He also said
Oliver had sought $390,000 from Auburn in April, but Muse refused.
The suit was filed the next month.


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