Former Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, sued by the university for breach of contract, has filed a counterclaim, saying he was subjected to intolerable work conditions before being forced to leave.
According to the claim filed Thursday, Shoop signed a contract with Penn State in 2015 "under duress" and was "constructively discharged/terminated" from his job in January 2016. Shoop seeks Penn State's suit to be dismissed plus a minimum of $75,000 in damages from his counterclaim.
Penn State in June sued Shoop for breach of contract, saying the former coach owes the university $891,856 for not complying with the buyout language of their deal. The case was removed to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania this week.
According to a clause in Shoop's contract, the coach would owe Penn State 50 percent of his remaining base salary if he did not become a head coach at another program within one year of leaving.
Tennessee named Shoop defensive coordinator in January 2016, a position he still holds. Penn State said it has asked Shoop to pay the damages, but the coach refused.
In his counterclaim, Shoop calls the buyout clause "unreasonable" and "unenforceable," saying that it "constitutes a penalty." In addition, Shoop claims that Penn State effectively terminated his contract, thus nullifying the buyout and triggering another clause in which Penn State owes Shoop compensation.
Shoop says that he signed the 2015 contract "under duress," though the claim does not go into specifics regarding how or why. Shoop, who came to Penn State with head coach James Franklin in 2014, initially signed a two-year contract.
After other schools showed interest in Shoop following that season, the coach received a new three-year contract worth $1 million annually.
But, according to court documents, Shoop's "working conditions became intolerable" shortly after he signed the new contract. The counterclaim says that Shoop experienced a "hostile, negative work environment" without citing specifics.
In January 2016, the counterclaim states, Shoop was "constructively discharged/terminated from, or forced or compelled to leave, his employment with Penn State." As a result, Shoop seeks a pro-rated amount of his remaining salary. The claim asks for damages of at least $75,000.
Shoop's counterclaim paints a different picture of his time at Penn State than the coach himself did just before leaving. In December 2015, as Penn State prepared to play in the TaxSlayer Bowl, Shoop said that he hoped Penn State would 'have me forever and ever and ever."
"I don't plan on going anywhere," Shoop said after a Penn State practice near Jacksonville, Fla. "... I hope Penn State will have me forever and ever and ever. I love being part of coach Franklin's program, I love what we're building here and I've said this millions of times: I think we're a [ESPN] 30-for-30 story read to rock and roll."
According to his memorandum of understanding with Tennessee, Shoop signed a three-year deal Jan. 11, 2016, worth $1.15 million per year. The contract says that Shoop is "solely responsible" for his Penn State buyout.