Seventy-one days before firing Mark Rosen, Michigan athletics director Warde Manuel signed the veteran volleyball coach to a five-year extension.
A Freedom of Information Act request submitted by The Michigan Daily revealed a five-year, $1,093,000 total salary contract that Rosen signed in October 2022. Even though Rosen’s first contract year under the deal began Sept. 1, 2022, the deal wasn’t signed by both University of Michigan President Santa Ono and Manuel until October. The contract ensured Rosen’s employment through Aug. 31, 2027.
“The parties have entered into this Agreement because the University desires to continue to employ the Head Coach for the period set forth below with the Head Coach’s assurance that he intends to serve the entire term of this Agreement, subject to the terms of this Agreement,” Section 1.01 of the contract reads. “The University agrees to employ the Head Coach and the Head Coach promises to be employed by the University upon the following terms and conditions.”
But Rosen’s firing on Dec. 20, 2022 went back on that commitment. So far, no reason for that firing is publicly available. In the same FOIA request, the University’s FOIA office told The Daily that no termination letter for Rosen exists.
Offering a letter of termination is standard practice for terminating an employee with cause — especially a coach of 24 years at one of the biggest athletic programs in the NCAA. Manuel’s original statement also fails to give a specific reason for Rosen’s firing.
“Following a thorough review of the program, I have decided that Mark Rosen will not return as our volleyball coach,” Manuel said in the statement when Rosen’s firing was announced. “I want to thank Mark for his 24 years of dedication to the program and to his student-athletes. I wish him success in the future.”
Of course, the University’s athletic department can fire a coach at any time for any reason, according to Rosen’s Oct. 2022 contract. However, those terminations are considered firings without cause, forcing Michigan to pay Rosen all remaining earned salary as outlined by Section 4.01 (a) of the contract. The current lack of a disclosed reason for Rosen’s termination — either to the public or to Rosen in the form of an official termination letter — suggests Rosen may have been fired without cause.
Rosen’s situation isn’t the only oddity to come out of Michigan Athletics the past year — nor is its accompanying silence. Michigan has been mum about Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh’s current NCAA investigation. It also took Manuel three months to respond to an investigation into the Michigan hockey program — which culminated in him begrudgingly firing Mel Pearson.
But for a messy situation like that to plague non-revenue sports like volleyball is out of the ordinary. While Rosen’s contract clearly outlines how Michigan could fire Rosen without cause, there’s currently not a corresponding reason as to why.
Mark Rosen did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.
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