LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The University of Kentucky countersued fired men's basketball coach Billy Gillispie on Thursday, claiming it doesn't owe him pay because he never signed a contract.
The employment dispute escalated when the university filed a lawsuit in Franklin Circuit Court in Kentucky, one day after Gillispie filed his own claim in Dallas, asking for $6 million in lost salary and undisclosed punitive damages, attorneys' fees and court costs.
Gillispie, who was fired March 27, was working under a seven-year memorandum of understanding but hadn't signed a formal contract during the two years he coached the Wildcats.
A call to Gillispie's attorney, Demetrios Anaipakos, was not immediately returned.
UK's lawyers are asking the court to rule that the two-page memorandum of understanding Gillispie signed after his hiring in 2007 was not the equivalent of a full contract. Gillispie says it is and that he is entitled to $1.5 million a year for four of the five years left on the deal.
"UK contends that the [memorandum of understanding] is not an enforceable long-term contract of employment, and that it owes no damages to Gillispie, having paid him for each basketball season in which he coached," the lawsuit says.
Gillispie's claim accuses the school of fraud and breach of contract, saying it never intended to sign him long term. However, the school claims the coach turned down at least six versions of a full employment contract, quibbling over the language involving what actions would constitute dismissal without pay.
University attorneys also argue that Kentucky, not Texas, is the proper place for any litigation between the two sides. They also claim that Gillispie's lawsuit wrongly targets the UK Athletics Association, which the school says is a "nonprofit supporting foundation that was not his employer."
"The decision to terminate Mr. Gillispie's employment was a university decision," UK's attorney Stephen Barker said in a statement. The athletics association "will vigorously seek the dismissal of the Texas lawsuit. The university is the proper party to any suit."
Gillispie's attorney, however, said on Wednesday there was a contract. "There's a public misconception that Coach Gillispie did not sign a contract with the University of Kentucky athletic association," Anaipakos, said. "He absolutely did. They drafted it. He signed it. They signed it and their board approved it. Whether you're in Kentucky or Texas, a deal is a deal."
Information from ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil and The Associated Press was used in this report.