Coaches Getting Bought Out On Their Way Out

Coaches, Finance

By: James Maddox

It can be costly these days to hire a coach that will lead a program to great success. It’s unfortunate, however, when it doesn’t play out that way and the head coach is getting kicked out of the door when expectations aren’t met. In these cases schools are forced to buyout the contracts of their former coaches, causing big paydays for said coaches.

An article recently published on ESPN.com by sports business writer and BusinessofCollegeSports.com founder Kristi Dosh shows the financial implications some programs are facing over the next few years.

The biggest is centered around former SEC powerhouse Auburn’s recent firing of coach Gene Chizik, who’s 4 year head coaching tenure included 3 bowl wins, one of those being a national championship, and more recently a dismal 3-9 record in 2012. Chizik received a lump sum of $7.5 million, approximately $2.4 million more than the reported $5.1 million buyout Auburn paid for previous head coach Tommy Tuberville.

Not only does Auburn have to pay the $7.5 million for Chizik’s buyout, but it is also planning to buyout Chizik’s staff for approximately $3 million, pay a $500,000 salary to new coach Gus Malzahn, and pay for the $700,000 buyout to Arkansas State for Malzahn’s departure. The buyout is considered a loan for Malzahn and will be repayed through his contract according to the letter of agreement released by Auburn.

Although the Auburn Tigers have paid the biggest coaching buyout of the year so far, it seems as if another program was financially hit worse by their own buyout. Dosh points out that former Southern Mississippi coach Ellis Johnson is due $2.1 million from his buyout. While that amount doesn’t ring close to that of Gene Chizik’s, it is still considered a high number for a school in a non-automatic-qualifying BCS conference. To put things in perspective, the $2.1 million is equal to over 10% of the schools athletic department revenue generated last year.

The craziness of the coaching carousel doesn’t stop at Auburn and Southern Miss. The former buyouts of coaches from Tennessee, Cal, and Kentucky are well into the millions. In fact, in just the past month the total amount programs have had to place toward buyouts of previous coaches has toppled $31 million collectively.

New Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema will be facing an even bigger payday than that of Chizik or any of the previously listed coaches if he is let go during the next 3 years. If so, he is expected to receive $12.8 million from Arkansas in a buyout. One of the biggest payouts in recent years belongs to Charlie Weis, who has received nearly $9 million so far. Although he was let go in 2009, he will continue to receive annual payments well into December 2015 with the amount expected to near $19 million by then.

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