LSU says Bertman's contract, scandal unrelated

NEW ORLEANS -- Two days after Pokey Chatman resigned as LSU's women's basketball coach, the university's board of supervisors deferred action on a new $425,000-per-year contract for athletic director Skip Bertman.

"Some of the board members were concerned about how the contract read in a couple of areas and wanted to clarify it," LSU board spokesman Charles Zewe said. "There's no rush. His existing contract doesn't run out until June 30. There's nothing out of the ordinary here."

Zewe insisted the board's unanimous decision Friday had nothing to do with the circumstances surrounding Chatman's resignation or how that was handled by the athletic department.

Chatman abruptly stepped down Wednesday, with her 10th-ranked team bound for the NCAA Tournament, to pursue other career opportunities.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune, citing university sources, reported Thursday that Chatman resigned after LSU officials discovered she allegedly had inappropriate conduct with players. Bertman told the newspaper LSU did not conduct a formal investigation but that an informal investigation "might have happened."

Bertman did not respond to The Associated Press' requests for an interview.

Zewe said it is LSU's policy to never discuss personnel matters. However, he said LSU would have made inquiries into any information it might have received about perceived inappropriate conduct.

"Without confirming any level of investigation, I can tell you LSU's actions in dealing with coach Chatman's resignation were above board, swift, decisive and thorough and in the best interest of not only of the university but also the student athletes on the LSU women's basketball team," Zewe said.

Chatman, who won 90 games in her first three seasons as head coach, has not been available for questions and has communicated only through written statements released by LSU.

LSU has agreed to pay Chatman according to her current, $400,000-per-year contract -- including bonuses of as much as $70,000 should LSU advance to the Final Four -- until her resignation becomes official April 30, Zewe said.

On Friday, Chatman's agent, Eric Weisel, declined to take calls to discuss the matter. Baton Rouge attorney James Wayne, who has represented Chatman in recent years, said he has not been able to reach the coach since her resignation.

Angela Cornell, a labor law expert at Cornell Law School, said any allegations of an improper relationship between a coach or player, or even a professor and student, are serious matters.

In such cases, a university can be held legally liable in sexual harassment lawsuits, "especially if they were aware or should have been aware of the relationship and get some information they neglect to investigate or address that could even increase their liability in the future," she said.

Universities "have an obligation to take action and at least thoroughly investigate, no matter the source of the information," Cornell said.

Zewe said Friday afternoon he was not aware of any pending legal action.

"I know of no threatened, filed or planned lawsuit involving LSU or Chatman's involvement as an LSU employee," he said.

Bertman's new contract for June 2007 to June 2010 calls for him to continue as athletic director through next spring, then remain at LSU in an emeritus role -- focusing on fundraising at the same salary. During the final two academic years, Bertman also would receive an additional $100,000 from the Tiger Athletic Fund, a private fundraising body for LSU sports.

Bertman was named athletic director in January 2001, just before the last of his 18 seasons as LSU's baseball coach.