A federal judge banned University of Colorado officials today from trying to hire New England Patriot Coach Chuck Fairbanks and said they had been arrogant in their disregard for a legal contract.
The Fairbanks case has been expected to chart new legal ground in the sports world because it is thought to be the first time a professional tham has filed suit to prevent its coach from being lured away to the college ranks.
The preliminary injunction forbids CU Athletic Director Edwin Crowder, President Roland Rautenstraus, football booster Jack Vickers and the school's regents from entering into an employment agreement with Fairbanks.
But, pending a possible trial, U.S. District Court Judge A. David Mazzone made it clear he is not binding Fairbanks to the National Football League team the coach wants to quit.
"I cannot say that Chuck Fairbanks breached his contract or must coach the Patriots," explained the judge. "I'm not ruling that Chuck Fairbanks can't sign a contract. But at this time, Chuck Fairbanks and the defendants can't enter into a contract at Colorado.
"The actions of these defendants show their motives and purpose was to persuade Mr. Fairbanks to abandon his responsibilities and to interfere with the contractual relationship he had with the New England Patriots. It was arrogant, unjustified and officious."
The injunction did not cover the university itself, nor CU booster Robert Six, because there was no evidence wither party directly contacted Fairbanks. Under the rules of the injunction, the Patriots must post a $100,000 bond in case Colorado wins on appeal. The university's lawyer, Early Cooley of Boston, said he would appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court here.
Fairbanks and the university have filed their own suit in Bourlder, Colo., claiming the Patriots are holding the coach against his will. His NFL contract has four years left.
Mazzone said it was Crowder, Rautenstraus and Vickers, with the regents' blessing, who frequently contacted Fairbanks and urged him to go to Colorado. Fairbanks admitted under oath Friday he spent three weeks working on the Colorado program while readying the Patriots for the NFL playoffs.
New England owner William Sullivan said he was hopeful the Patriots could persuade Fairbanks to stay on.
"Time's a great healer. I'd like to think we could convince the guy to stay. But I haven't had much success up to now in doing that," Sullivan said.
"We are particularly pleased Judge Mazzone has spoken so forcefully in upholding the sanctity of a contract. We believe that when a person executes a contract, that he should perform in accordance with its terms."
Sullivan added he felt any move toward setting the matter out of court would have to come from Colorado officials.