The institution’s board of trustees voted Monday to establish a five-year contract with Lemak Sports Medicine and Orthopedics. For years, Lemak partnered with Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, the company that holds the current contract with JSU, which will expire Aug. 27.
Trustees said the contract assures that a primary physician will be at all football games and that Lemak or another orthopedic care physician will be on hand at all games in the regular season. A provision in the contract allows the athletes to visit other medical providers if they wish.
“I think they’ve made some substantial differences in the contracts, and I can certainly support Lemak at this time when back in May I couldn’t,” board member Ronnie Smith said. “I feel like through negotiations, Lemak differentiated himself.”
The current contract with the Andrews orthopedic group states that physicians will be available for home football games when available. That contract did not include a provision to allow students to choose their own medical providers, according to a presentation given by JSU Athletic Director Warren Koegel.
The new contract states JSU can terminate the Lemak group without cause with 60 days notice. The Andrews contract gives the university the same opportunity, but requires 180 days notice.
The Lemak contract also assures the university more money than the old Andrews contract. With the new agreement, the university will receive $63,500, $16,000 of which will be for a suite in the stadium. The existing contract with the Lemak group offers the university no more than $34,500.
The students’ treatment is paid for through each athlete’s personal health insurance provider, or through university-provided insurance.
In addition, the Lemak contract brings with it the use of more hospitals. It states student athletes will have the option of receiving treatment at Trinity Medical Center in Birmingham, or at Gadsden Regional Medical Center. The Andrews contract provided hospital care in Birmingham only.
“I think we get the direct oversight of a premier sports medicine physician -- the key word being direct -- on a day-to-day basis. And particularly because of their association with Gadsden Regional,” said head football coach Jack Crowe. “We really have a local provider. ... We have better access to higher quality.”
Faculty members, including some coaches, questioned why the board and Crowe would support changing the orthopedic care providers now. Some questions remain, said Jana McGinnis, JSU’s softball coach.
“The coaches have not been informed of the plusses or the minuses,” McGinnis said. “We felt like we had the best, possibly in the world.”
Paul Beezley, an associate professor of history and the past president of the faculty senate, has been suspicious of the move from the start. Some of his initial concerns have been eased, but others remain, he said.
“They’ve never given us a reason. Conspiracy people love a void,” Beezley said.
JSU’s athletic director, Koegel, has been on the job just 42 days, but the board’s attorney, Charlie Waldrep, said he was instrumental in the process. Koegel said Andrews provided a great service for JSU, and that he is convinced the Lemak group will also provide quality care for the university’s athletes.
“Whatever group we work with -- whether it’s a medical group or group of officials doing our games or a group of people from Calhoun County that might not have anything to do with athletics -- we're going to be involved and positive with them in our approach to everything,” Koegel said. “There's always going to be concerns that there's a change coming about.”
Contact staff writer Laura Johnson at 256-235-3544.