In exclusive interview, ex-FAMU AD Gosha refutes law firm report that points to 'violations'

Jim Henry
Tallahassee Democrat

Former Florida A&M University Vice President and Director of Athletics Kortne Gosha vehemently refutes a report by a Florida law firm that indicates he violated university regulations and policies that warranted termination.

Gosha, 33, suddenly resigned from FAMU on April 20. 

“We had the audacity to think we could change the culture, and for a little while we did,” Gosha told the Democrat Monday evening in an exclusive interview – his first since he stepped down after 29 months at FAMU.

“However, I stand that the decisions we made as an athletics program, the things that we put in place, had been done the right way with integrity through whatever university process and procedures were put in front of us.”

Gosha landed on his feet quickly.

On Friday – less than three weeks after resigning –the Democrat confirmed that Gosha is set to join Tulane University in New Orleans as a Senior Associate Athletic Director.

FAMU EMPLOYEE ACCUSATIONS:'Recklessness': Rep. Ramon Alexander apologizes amid sexting, harassment allegations

Gosha's new job:Former FAMU AD Kortne Gosha to join Tulane as Senior Associate Athletic Director

Florida A&M Vice President/Director of Athletics Kortne Gosha sports a clever T-shirt in response to people requesting free tickets to games.

But unresolved issues between Gosha and FAMU could spill into the courtroom, as both sides in the employment dispute have lawyered up.

Gosha has retained local attorney Marie A. Mattox to represent him for potential legal proceedings against the university. 


The university, meanwhile, brought on Gray/Robinson, a Florida law firm independent of the university, to investigate his tenure.

The firm outlined five “acts or omissions” constituting cause for termination of Gosha’s three-year contract at FAMU. The law firm indicated it was tasked by the university's General Counsel to offer analysis of grounds for disciplinary action against Gosha. 

The report is dated April 19, 2022 – the day prior to Gosha’s sudden resignation.

While the news of Gosha's departure roiled many in the Rattler fan base, including football coach Willie Simmons, FAMU President Larry Robinson quickly named veteran employee Michael Smith as the interim athletics director.

Monday, Robinson constituted an 18-member search committee to conduct a national search to find the Rattlers' next AD.

Kortne Gosha worked at Middle Tennessee State and the University of Miami in various roles in athletics. He is now the athletics director at FAMU.

“We will build on the recent and historic achievements of this program with a keen focus on the success of our student-athletes in the classroom and in competition," Robinson said in a prepared statement. "The AD will work with our coaches and staff to meet and exceed the expectations of fans, friends, supporters, and those entities with compliance authority on and off campus." 

Letter points to 'contrary' conduct; Gosha says it's 'retaliatory'

Gosha was hired by FAMU in December 2019 from the University of Miami, where he served as Associate Athletic Director for Facilities & Operations. His FAMU contract was set to expire in seven months. 

The instances of what "would warrant termination" cited in the report, obtained by the Democrat, were: 

  1. Authorizing Peak Sports to enter into an agreement with Urban Edge Networks (UEN) to post FAMU content on UEN’s streaming service.
  2. Authorizing the NY Racing team to place trademarked FAMU logos on a race car without authority and without prior consultation with the Communications Department.
  3. Attempting to hire coaches without following FAMU policies and regulations or coordinating in advance with HR.
  4. Providing meals to athletes in violation of NCAA Regulations.
  5. Failing to work cooperatively with other departments.

Gosha defended his tenure overseeing a department that features 14 sports with a budget of $9.4 million for 2021-22, describing it as a "historical run." 

He also indicated he was not given the opportunity to talk to Robinson, the General Counsel or the Gray/Robinson firm about the allegations. He described the Gray/Robinson report as “untruths, retaliatory conduct and partial information.”

►See the full letter here.

"My core values and my integrity mean a lot to me," Gosha told the Democrat. "Leadership is hard and changing a culture is hard. And we changed lives for our students, our donors and all that represented this great institution.." 

Since Gosha's sudden exit, President Robinson has not mentioned him publicly or specifically addressed the circumstances of his departure, instead focusing on the hiring process. 

In a document offered by his attorney, Gosha offered point-by-point responses to the report and claims made by the law firm.

A fight over the right to stream

FAMU entered into a sponsorship and advertising sales contract with Peak Sports MGMT (Peak) in January of 2021. The agreement was reviewed by the General Counsel’s office and approved by the FAMU Board of Trustees. The agreement gave Peak the exclusive right to market and secure sponsorships and advertising agreements on behalf of FAMU, which is part of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). 

In February 2022, FAMU athletics announced a deal with Urban Edge Network (UEN) had been reached, giving rights to UEN to stream FAMU sports content on its newly created live-streaming platform, HBCU League Pass.

However, Gray/Robinson maintains that a contract was never executed between FAMU and UEN and that Peak had entered into a contract with UEN. It also said "emails indicate that Gosha was aware of the Peak/UEN agreement and that it allows UEN to stream FAMU content on HBCU League Pass without a properly approved licensing agreement with FAMU."

Florida A&M University President Larry Robinson "strikes" before the start of a game between the Rattlers and Alabama State at Bragg Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Gosha counters that the agreement is "between Peak sports and UEN," his signature is not on the agreement and that no actions in it have been initiated. The contract also explained that SWAC media rights supersede the agreement.

He added the intent was to stream FAMU coaches shows, Marching 100 performances, athletic scrimmages and all content that is owned by the FAMU athletic department and is governed by its bylaws. 

As additional protection when it came to marketing rights, according to the contract obtained by the Democrat, UEN had to receive approval from Peak and Gosha to stream FAMU content. Gosha said that no such approval was given. 

The NASCAR deal dispute

The FAMU logo was featured on a race car during the NASCAR Cup Series race in Las Vegas on March 6. The report stated that Gosha had authorized the licensing of FAMU trademarked logos on a race car owned by the NY Racing Team without a formal contract. It added that Gosha "did not have delegate authority to bind the University to this licensing deal." 

Gosha counters The Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) – a business that manages licensing royalties for college programs across the nation, including FAMU – had brokered the deal with the NY Racing Team to use the FAMU logo on the No. 44 Chevrolet driven by Greg Biffle.

"Nobody from FAMU approved the logo to go on the car," Gosha told the Democrat. 

Greg Biffle, driver of the #44 Florida A&M University Chevrolet, drives during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 05, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Racing Rattlers:

Gosha provided the Democrat a copy of an email chain that included an apology to him from CLC, citing confusion over the agreement. It also included Gosha's email to FAMU leadership. 

"Point of clarification. We reached out to CLC for an agreement and at that point I stated I liked the concept but would need an agreement and term sheet, which was never approved or authorized by me or anyone at FAMU," Gosha said in an email.

"From my understanding that agreement was presented to our legal team and has not been approved. If you have such agreement or written approval by FAMU please provide such." 

Personnel and process problems

The report stated that Gosha – without delegated authority – extended an offer of employment to former Prairie View assistant track coach Phillip Butler for a vacant coaching position in the women's track and field program.

It said Gosha failed to consult in advance with Human Resources to arrange for advertisement of the position, or a search process prior to making an offer of employment. They added that he gave Butler access to confidential information, including Social Security numbers, which violated student state and federal privacy laws. Gosha denies that and calls it "misinformation."

Investigators also said Gosha attempted to offer Butler a position different than what was later sent to HR, the budget office and the president’s office for approval.

"As athletic director, I had the ability to appoint coaches or other athletics personnel and had authority to provide a working title as deemed appropriate," Gosha told the Democrat, adding that his plan was to name Butler the program's Director of Track and Field, which also included administrative responsibilities. 

FAMU VP/Director of Athletics Kortne Gosha speaks to the crowd during the National Signing Day event at The Moon on Feb. 2, 2022.

Gosha stated he was hired under the same appointment process and had hired other coaches and staffers in the same manner "with no problems from HR or the president." He said President Robinson was "fully aware and was informed" in October 2021 that athletics would be moving forward in recruiting and hiring a track coach. 

Gosha said a search committee that included two student-athletes conducted Zoom interviews with seven candidates. Three, including Butler, were brought to campus for additional interviews in December 2021. Gosha said he verbally extended an offer to Butler, whose hiring package and offer letter were submitted to Human Resources on Jan. 1, 2022.

Gosha said HR acknowledged it had received the paperwork and "would process it accordingly."  He said the paperwork was on President Robinson's desk by Jan. 5 for his approval signature.  However, Gosha said two weeks passed and Butler wasn't hired as Robinson did not approve his paperwork. 

"HR never once told us we were operating outside of policy/procedure, neither did the office of General Council, neither did the president," Gosha told the Democrat.

Food fight: Providing meals leads to NCAA violation

On Feb. 28-29, 2022, the FAMU track team traveled to Clemson, South Carolina, for a meet at Clemson University. Per NCAA regulations, FAMU had the option to provide meals to the participating athletes by either giving each athlete a cash per diem or directly purchasing meals for the athletes.

The report indicated Gosha was made aware that athletes would be receiving per diem but still provided food for the team, causing FAMU to self-report a Level III violation to the NCAA. A Level III/Secondary violation, according to the NCAA, is "isolated or limited in nature, can be inadvertent in nature, and only provides a minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantage."

Gosha said the report failed to mention that the coach tested positive for COVID-19 on the team's departure date for Clemson and was "non-responsive in regards to what he was doing or not doing."

Gosha said the administration was unaware if the athletes were given their per diem, and directed the team's travel coordinator to book meals for the team. Gosha said the team also had to stay an additional night due to severe weather in South Carolina, prompting additional meals to be ordered.

Gosha said the track student-athletes repaid the difference between meal cost and the extended cost to ensure compliance with NCAA regulations. 

The report also said former FAMU Associate Athletic Director Michael Johnson, who oversaw the track program during his employment but no longer worked at the school, had ordered meals for the athletes.

Gosha told the Democrat that was not true, saying Johnson was still listed as the point of contact with the vendor following his termination and his name appeared on the invoice. 

Failing to work with other departments

The report stated that of all FAMU's policies, "this appears to be the one most often violated by Gosha. Documents reveal a clear pattern of actions by Gosha that did not promote the best interest of the University or University community." It said Gosha's responses to other FAMU departments "often ranged from uncooperative to hostile."

Gosha told the Democrat those accusations are "untrue."

He and others have pointed to the department's progress under his direction, from helping direct a number of other brand initiatives to FAMU's move from the MEAC to the SWAC. Last season, Simmons' program was featured on the "Why Not Us" series on ESPN+. The athletics program – and Marching 100 – are also fitted in LeBron James gear through its unique partnership with Nike. 

Simmons hailed Gosha's "visionary leadership" in a social media post hours before the university's announcement that Gosha had resigned. 

Back story:

Contrarily, Gosha said the General Counsel's office directed other units on campus not to work with athletics unless a general counsel representative was present. 

"Outside of FAMU, my reputation has never been questioned about hostility or my ability to cooperate with other people," Gosha said of the athletic department under his tenure. "I was hired at FAMU to transform and take this athletic program to places people could not imagine and do to it the right way. And I firmly believe that we did that."

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