Les wrote an email to Bradley board of trustees chairman Michael McCord earlier this week to notify him of a potential lawsuit against the university to dispute the amount of money Bradley still owes him after he was fired by the school in March. Les' attorney C.J. Krawczyk confirmed the email on Friday.
In the email to McCord, Les wrote, "It is with sadness and disappointment that I write you this email. Bradley University is leaving me no choice but to litigate against my Alma mater to enforce my rights under a seven-year Employment Agreement that I have with the University.
"As you know, I was relieved of my duties as Head Men's Basketball Coach at Bradley in March of this year. ... As you also may know, I have three years left on my Employment Agreement. I expect and deserve Bradley and its administration to honor their remaining obligations to me. I'm not asking for anything more than what I am owed, but I am not willing to accept anything less. However, less is what Bradley is attempting to force me to accept."
Les was fired on March 6 after nine seasons at Bradley. He had three years remaining on his contract. On May 5, he was named UC Davis' head coach.
Bradley released a statement Saturday, responding to Les' email.
"Jim Les has made serious allegations regarding our willingness to honor his contract and our approach to on-going negotiations with him," the statement read. "In light of the public release of his letter, Bradley feels it is appropriate to outline a number of significant facts relating to his statements.
"Jim Les has approximately three years remaining on his contract with Bradley. We are firmly committed to honoring the contract and have done so to this point. However, Les has a contractually stated duty to mitigate/offset Bradley financial obligations now that he is re-employed with the University of California-Davis."
Les' responsibilities at UC Davis also include teaching, and he signed separate contracts as a coach and lecturer at the school. In his email to McCord, Les disagreed with the amount of money Bradley is attempting to pay him to offset his current contract. Les wrote his compensation should be based only on his coaching contract and not his teaching one.
Les wrote, "Under my contract, Bradley is entitled to an "offset" for money I receive for "college coaching." These are words that BU chose to include in the agreement; I had nothing to do with the drafting."
Les also wrote that his responsibilities are split 68 percent for coaching and 32 percent for lecturing, and that all head coaches at the school also teach classes.
"Bradley recently conducted an open records inquiry of UC Davis and their subsequent response leads us to believe Les' compensation unreasonably takes advantage of his Bradley contract in order to maximize Bradley's expense. Thus our differences exist," the school said in a statement.
Les' contract at UC Davis also increases after the third year of his five-year agreement. Krawczyk said Bradley is attempting to calculate what it owes Les based on the larger figures of those final two years of his UC Davis contract rather than the upcoming three years.
Les explained in his email to McCord that his contract was no different than previous UC Davis coach Gary Stewart, and UC Davis had its reasons for how his contract was structured.
Les, who played and graduated at Bradley, expressed sadness in his email over what his relationship with his alma mater has become.
Les wrote, "I did not ask to be fired, that was Bradley's decision, and now ... Bradley must pay for the consequences of its decision. Instead, the administration has resorted to threats and to taking baseless legal positions, daring me to take legal action to resolve these black/white issues involving my contract with my new employer. In retrospect, I guess I should have sat at home for the next three years and just collected the balance of my contract instead of saving BU money. These recent actions leave me no other choice but to litigate against the University that I have loved, pored sweat into, and represented in a first class manner for my entire adult life."
Krawczyk said they hoped to still resolve the issue out of court and has been in communication with the school.
"We have honored the terms and provisions of Coach Les' contact," Bradley spokesperson Shelley Epstein said Friday.
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.