Lawyers for former College of Charleston baseball coach Matt Heath have accused athletic director Matt Roberts of lying and destroying evidence related to Heath’s firing.
The allegations were made in a motion Heath’s lawyers filed this week seeking to throw out a settlement between the former baseball coach and the school in November.
Based on new evidence uncovered by Steve Abrams, a forensic expert hired by Heath’s lawyers, the legal team wants to dismiss the settlement agreement, reinstate the lawsuit and take the case to trial.
The new evidence centers around text messages related to current College of Charleston baseball coach Chad Holbrook. The filing accuses Roberts of dumping text messages and lying in an affidavit.
Heath sued the school for wrongful termination in July 2017. One of the allegations in the lawsuit is that Roberts already had decided to hire Holbrook, the former head coach at South Carolina, before firing Heath on June 30, 2017.
The school has long denied Heath’s claim.
In November 2018, more than a year after Heath’s lawsuit was filed, the parties “entered into a settlement agreement” to end the litigation. In the settlement, the College of Charleston agreed to pay Heath one year’s salary, multiple sources with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed.
Heath made $154,875 during his final season with the Cougars in 2017.
The settlement was contingent on Abrams’ examination of Roberts’ and Holbrook’s electronic devices to determine if “there were any messages contradicting” the athletic director’s sworn statement. In November, Abrams discovered Roberts' phone was configured to keep messages for only 30 days. Heath’s lawyers then requested that Roberts and Holbrook turn over other electronic devices for further examination and a federal judge ordered both to turn over their devices to Abrams last month.
Abrams found nothing relevant on Robert’s iPad Air, but did find several text messages on his iPhone between Holbrook and his father, Eddie Holbrook, that appear to contradict Roberts’ sworn testimony.
The motion says that on April 17, 2017, six weeks before Holbrook resigned at South Carolina and three months before Heath was fired, Holbrook texted his father the following: “Matt Roberts is AD at CofC. I may go down there and coach a few years.”
On April 19, 2017 – just a day before South Carolina opened a crucial three-game series against nationally-ranked Florida – Holbrook and Roberts had a 19-minute conversation, according to phone records.
Abrams uncovered a text message on April 24, 2017, just a day after losing two of three games to Florida, from Holbrook to his father: “Don’t say anything but Matt Roberts really wants me to come be his baseball coach at the College of Charleston, I’m think about it strongly. Please don’t say anything.”
There was a flurry of phone calls between Roberts and Holbrook when Holbrook resigned on June 6, 2017, according to the documents.
The motion concludes “the evidence concerning these phone records, coupled with the content of the messages from Chad Holbrook’s phone demonstrate that Matt Roberts’ repeated representations to (Heath) and this court that he had no such communications are demonstrably false and strain credulity. Roberts’ subsequent attempt to conceal many of these communications by deleting messages from the relevant time period compounds the seriousness of Roberts’ offenses.”
In June 2017, the school launched an investigation into Heath’s conduct as head coach and he was suspended without pay. The investigation uncovered several allegations of misconduct by Heath.
After the investigation was completed on June 14, 2017, Roberts notified Heath that he had initiated a termination action for “just cause” — meaning the school would not be required to pay Heath the balance on his contract. Heath had three years remaining on his five-year contract.
Roberts submitted his final recommendation to then-College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell that Heath be terminated for “just cause” on June 23, 2017.
Five days later, Heath submitted a written reply to Roberts and McConnell objecting to the findings of the investigation, saying the report was “biased” and that he never had a chance to produce “evidence” or witnesses at a hearing or have a “face-to-face” meeting with McConnell.
The suit contends the investigation by Roberts was “designed for one purpose only to end Heath’s tenure as head coach in bad faith” no matter the cost and not to uncover the veracity of the allegations of misconduct.
Heath, 39, was 59-57-1 in two seasons as the Cougars' head coach from 2016-2017. The Cougars were 28-31 during Heath’s final season in 2017. It was the Cougars’ first losing season since 2001.
Holbrook and Roberts declined to comment on Wednesday. McConnell has since retired.