Roy Exum: Buy The Coach Out!

Wednesday, December 8, 2021 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

It has long been said the two biggest days in a football coach’s life are the day he gets hired, and the day he gets fired. Being a college coach has never been as lucrative, with the nation’s elite universities paying around $10 million a year, but getting fired has an upside too. Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated notes, “We are one more big firing away from eclipsing $100 million spent in buyout money this cycle.”

Eleven coaches who were fired at the end of the season have buyouts in the millions and when universities are paying a total of $94.4 million in buyouts, my goodness, higher education just gets higher and higher and what boggles the mind is how high.

LSU just fired Ed Orgeron – who led the Tigers to the national title in January 2020 – in order to hire Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly.

Orgeron’s buyout was $17 million, and Kelly’s new contract is believed to be $100 million for the next 10 years. Southern Cal ditched Clay Helton with a $10 million buyout and then hired Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma in another $100 million deal.

Then there is the unknown. When a coach is hired away from one school to the next, the coach’s contract at the school he’s leaving will have to be settled. Often that is part of the hire, so more millions are involved. It’s a high stakes game and, when some fat-cat boosters growl, “Buy that stupid coach’s contract!” it shows the intense pressure that marquee programs demand in today’s microwave-quick society.

Here are this season’s buyouts:

* -- Ed Orgeron was fired at LSU. His buyout was $17 Million.

* -- Dan Mullen was fired at Florida. His buyout was $12 Million.

* -- Gary Patterson was fired at Texas Christian. His buyout was $12 Million.

* -- Todd Helton was fired at Southern Cal. His buyout was $10 Million.

* -- Jimmy Lake was fired at the University of Washington. His buyout was $9.9 Million.

* -- Justin Fuente was fired at Virginia Tech. His buyout was $8.7 Million.

* -- Matt Wells was fired at Texas Tech. His buyout was $7.4 Million.

* -- Rod Carey was fired at Temple University. His buyout was $4 Million (estimated)

* -- Manny Diaz was fired at the University of Miami. His buyout was $4 Million. (estimated)

* -- Steve Addazio was fired at Colorado State. His buyout was $3 Million.

* -- Skip Holtz was fired at Louisiana Tech. His buyout was $3 Million.

* -- Walt Bell was fired at the University of Massachusetts. His buyout was $940K.

* -- Chad Lundsford was fired at Georgia Southern. His buyout was $800K.

* -- Chip Lindsey was fired at Troy. His buyout was $700K.

* -- Tom Arth was fired at Akron. His buyout was $640K.

* -- Randy Edsall was fired at UConn. His buyout was $400K.

Total: $94.4 million.

* * *

NOW THEN, ABOUT ALABAMA’S NICK SABAN …

[Note: This article was originally posted on Larry Brown Sports by Grey Papke]

The past month has seen college football coaches land a series of huge new contracts, several of which challenge Nick Saban’s status as the highest-paid coach in the sport. Fortunately for him, the Alabama coach has a clause in his current deal to ensure that he is in no danger of falling back among the chasing pack salary-wise.

Saban has a clause in his contract that effectively guarantees his salary can be adjusted as the coaching market changes, as noted by Paul Myerberg and Steve Berkowitz of USA Today. The specific language in Saban’s deal states that the Alabama coach and the university will meet annually on Feb. 1 “for so long as necessary to determine the marketplace trends regarding head football coach compensation.”

Furthermore, Saban’s contract states that the Crimson Tide will be required to increase Saban’s “total guaranteed annual compensation” if it becomes less than the average of either the three highest-paid SEC coaches or the five highest-paid FBS coaches.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has a similar clause in his contract. Swinney’s deal states that the parties must annually “complete a good faith review and negotiation of aggregate compensation.” If Clemson fails to ensure that Swinney’s contract remains competitive with the biggest deals in college football, the school would have to waive the buyout clause in Swinney’s contract.

Saban is due to reportedly make $9.9 million at Alabama next season. As hefty a sum as that is, it’s only slightly more than the $9.5 million annual salary Brian Kelly will receive from LSU. Kelly could even surpass Saban depending on contract incentives. Michigan State coach Mel Tucker will also make that same sum annually, and his resume certainly does not compare to Saban’s.

Money isn’t the primary motivator for Saban, who has indicated that he plans to retire at Alabama. That doesn’t change the fact that he’ll want to be compensated in line with what he continues to accomplish at the school. If less-accomplished coaches like Kelly and Tucker are getting the kind of money Saban has been receiving, it’s only sensible that Saban will feel entitled to a raise of his own.

* * *

royexum@aol.com


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