Former UAA hockey coach files lawsuit

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Dean Talafous, the fired University of Alaska Anchorage hockey coach, has filed a civil suit against the university.

Talafous, who was fired in March 2001 after five consecutive losing seasons, filed the suit in Superior Court to appeal his grievance.

The grievance was denied by UAA Chancellor Lee Gorsuch and UA President Mark Hamilton earlier this summer.

Talafous had two years remaining on a three-year contract when he was fired shortly after the 2000-2001 season. According to court papers, Talafous contended his contract was guaranteed and he was owed two years' salary, or about $180,000.

Gorsuch and Hamilton acted after hearing officer Kenneth Jacobus recommended UAA dismiss the grievance. Jacobus found that the original five-year contract Talafous signed in 1996 included the word ''guaranteed.'' But Jacobus found that the three-year contract Talafous signed in August 2000 did not include the word ''guaranteed.''

The school contended that under terms of the 2000 contract Talafous was subject to university regulations and regents' policy, like most other University of Alaska employees.

In Talafous' case, the policy required the school to give him six months notice of nonretention, meaning he would remain on the payroll for six months. Those six months were worth roughly $40,000 in salary.

In his notice of appeal, Talafous claims Jacobus' findings were erroneous on several counts and that UAA breached its contract with him.

Jacobus, in his recommendation to UAA, wrote, ''it is clear that Dean Talafous wanted a guaranteed three year contract, and believed that he had received one.'' But Jacobus also wrote that Talafous ''mistakenly'' believed he had a guaranteed deal.

Talafous was hired by UAA in May 1996 after the retirement of longtime Seawolves coach Brush Christiansen. The Seawolves struggled in their first two seasons with Talafous behind the bench but showed signs of rebounding in his third and fourth seasons.

In Talafous' fifth season, though, the Seawolves slid back downhill. They went 7-24-5 and slogged through a school-record, 20-game winless streak during which players complained about Talafous to UAA athletic director Steve Cobb. The Seawolves were 50-108-22 in Talafous' five seasons.

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