SBD/November 27, 2012/Colleges

Catch-22: Colleges Face Dilemma In Buying Out Big Contracts For Football Coaches

Auburn owes Chizik $7.5M over four years ending in '15-16
Five college football coaches were fired Sunday and those schools "are on the hook for about $14 million in buyouts to their former employees," according to Ralph Russo of the AP. That is "a lot of money to pay someone to not work for you, but it can be even more costly to keep a coach who is not only losing but draining a program in other ways." Ole Miss AD Ross Bjork said, "If there is no energy, no sign of hope, we're not gaining traction in recruiting or in people investing in our program, and we're not winning, you've got to make a change." Making the decision to change coaches "in any sport is as much about the future as the present." Univ. of Colorado AD Mike Bohn yesterday said that "lagging ticket sales and waning interest from fans was a factor" in parting ways with Jon Embree after two seasons. Bjork said, "You operate off a zero-base budget. Let's say looking at past trends you budget $14 million in football ticket sales and halfway through the season you are projecting $11 or $12 million. That's a problem." Cal coach Jeff Tedford "went 3-9 and AD Sandy Barbour faced this choice: Fire a coach the school still owes $6.9 million or face the prospect of brand new luxury boxes being left vacant" (AP, 11/27).

ROCKY MOUNTAIN LOW: In Denver, John Henderson notes Colorado's next football coach "could make up to $2.5 million a year, a big jump in commitment from the $742,000 paid" to Embree. Bohn said that the school "has not settled on an exact salary but is increasing its commitment to the program to lure a current head coach with a proven track record." Bohn said, "The conviction for football has got to be escalated amongst all of our key players with that." The athletic department is "receiving an influx of funds because of the Pac-12's lucrative TV contracts." Colorado, in its second year in the conference, "will start receiving" about $21M a year in TV revenue. Bohn said that the money is "desperately needed." Colorado's revenue from ticket sales "dropped about $2.5 million this past football season." Bohn: "As we've looked around the Pac-12 Conference, everywhere we've gone we see the commitment. We see what we're up against. The bar is raised high. It's higher than it's ever been" (DENVER POST, 11/27).

TROUBLE ON THE PLAINS: In Birmingham, Charles Goldberg noted it is going to cost Auburn $11.09M to "get rid of" coach Gene Chizik and his nine assistant coaches, though "that figure will drop when they get other jobs." Chizik is set to get a $7.5M buyout, which will be "paid in monthly installments through four fiscal years concluding" in '15-16. Auburn said that "six assistant coaches will be paid the remainder of their 2012-13 contracts in equal monthly installments until its conclusion on June 30, 2013" (AL.com, 11/25). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Rachel Bachman noted after an NCAA investigation into recruiting, getting "rid of the entire staff is one way to mitigate potential damage" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/25).

HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF: In Raleigh, Joe Giglio noted it will cost N.C. State $1.2M "over the next four years" to buy out football coach Tom O'Brien's contract. There also is "the matter of paying a consulting firm, Parker Executive Search, to help find O'Brien's replacement and the three assistant coaches who are under contract for the 2013 season." AD Debbie Yow said that the "decision to fire O'Brien was worth the cost, in part because of lagging season-ticket sales but also because of a disagreement over the future of the program" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 11/26). Also in Raleigh, Luke DeCock wrote Yow's decision to fire O'Brien was her "biggest gamble yet." Yow wants to "replace him with a high-intensity recruiter, preferably with head-coaching experience, who's more hands-on than O'Brien" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 11/26).

BOILING OVER
: In Indiana, Mike Carmin wrote the decision by Purdue AD Morgan Burke to fire football coach Danny Hope after four seasons "now requires a solid financial commitment." Hope was the "lowest paid coach in the Big Ten, earning a guaranteed income of $950,000 this season." In the last week, Hope has "talked about the lack of support and resources available to him during his tenure." Purdue's current assistant coaches also "are the lowest paid in the Big Ten," earning a combined $1.6M. Burke said, "We've lost a third of the fan base. Losing $3 million in revenue opportunities, it's a big deal. I quite frankly think Danny was making inroads, but we didn't win enough games" (Lafayette JOURNAL & COURIER, 11/26).

OFF THE RADAR: In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy noted Boston College "fired" football coach Frank Spaziani on Sunday, "and nobody cares." BC "firing its football coach is no different than the New England Revolution sacking their head coach." Bostonians "are not part of this college sports mania that sweeps America" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/26).

CONN MAN: UConn AD Warde Manuel said that women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma "will have a new five-year contract extension that will continue his run as Huskies head coach through 2018 -- at least." In Hartford, John Altavilla wrote the new deal is "expected to make Auriemma the highest paid coach in the history of Division I-A women's college basketball" (HARTFORD COURANT, 11/26).
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