We here at Coaches Hot Seat look at a number of contracts for college head football coaches and one thing that is really disturbing to us is the increasing use of very large buyouts for football coaches when the buyouts are unwarranted and actually put schools in very disadvantageous situations. The argument for a large buyout for a head coach if another school wants to come in and hire a coach makes sense to a degree because the school would be losing a quality head football coach and the school is often left vulnerable to both cleaning up after the coach has left and hiring another coach, but these huge buyout numbers on the head coach’s side when the school has to pay a coach a large amount to fire him make no sense at all. We can certainly understand an agent wanting to make sure that his client is well compensated if he is fired, but what sense does it make for Phillip Fulmer and Tommy Tuberville to have $6 million dollar buyouts when the school is already paying these coaches obscene amounts of money to coach their football teams? Answer: It makes no sense. With Tuberville and Fulmer making in excess of $2 million dollars a year do these coaches really need a $6 million dollar buyout if the schools wanted to terminate their employment? No, that does not make any sense and we certainly hope that the schools in the coming years can help readjust the buyout numbers on both sides of the contract so that an athletic program is not looking at a $6 million dollar type buyouts which in the end only takes money away from other collegiate sports teams, even if the money is raised privately from wealthy boosters.
As we stated last year in this blog, our view on buyouts in contracts for college head football coaches is nothing different from the way we treat buyouts in the private sector, and that is that a buyout should not be so large that if the coach really wants to leave a school, that another school could not easily step in and pay that buyout. Rich Rodriguez is a very good example of a coach that did not want to be at his current school last year in West Virginia, and in fact Rodriguez’s $4 million dollar buyout was so large that it created a problem when he wanted to move to another school and it created a PR problem for West Virginia when they had to sue Rich in court to get the buyout. The buyout number that is negotiated with a college head football coach should be looked on as something similar to the famous “Laffer Curve” which Arthur Laffer proposed to find the correct rate of taxation. Arthur Laffer famously convinced the Reagan Administration in the early 1980s that by reducing marginal tax rates on the most productive people in our society that it would unleash an entrepreneurial explosion and when marginal rates were reduced in the early 80s from around 70 percent to 38 percent, we suddenly had very productive people pouring a lot of time and effort into their jobs and their own businesses because they found they could suddenly keep a lot more of their own money for all of their efforts. The core of the “Laffer Curve” is not lower taxes per se, but rather that along the curve there is an “optimum” amount of taxation and it is up to policy makers to find that “optimum” taxation point on the curve. A tax rate that is too high will find people will not be incentivized to work very hard because the government will be taking too much of their income and a tax rate to low will obviously find the government not collecting enough revenues from taxes. Arthur Laffer and the “Laffer Curve” stressed the importance of finding the “optimum” rate of taxation so that both entrepreneurs and high-achievers will work hard and that the government will generate sufficient revenues, and this “Laffer” style of approach is how ADs should be thinking about buyouts for head football coaches. There is an “optimum” amount of a buyout and we are very sure that it does no one any good with a buyout number being set at 2, 3, or 4 times the annual pay of a head football coach, and it does not make any sense for a school to have a zero or no buyout for a coach either.
It is our view that the buyout for a head football coach should probably settle somewhere near what a coach makes in one year’s salary averaged over the life of the coach’s contract, and for Tuberville or Fulmer that would mean they would have a buyout a lot closer to $2.5 million instead of the current $6 million that both men have. The reason why it is important to have an appropriate buyout number is that an “optimum” buyout number encourages a healthy relationship between the coach and the school and it also leaves open the option that the coach can leave the school if he wishes, because a school that wants to hire the coach away will not have to pay an exorbitant buyout to get the coach, and also a school will be able to fire the coach without breaking the bank. It is our view that if a coach wants to leave a school and to go somewhere else to coach it makes no sense for a school to have a high buyout number in place, because a high buyout number would discourage a disgruntled or unsatisfied coach to go elsewhere, and we personally would not want an unsatisfied person coaching our football team. If a coach is not happy where he is at he should find a place where he would be happy, and some of these ridiculous buyout numbers, like Tuberville has at Auburn, both lock the coach in from the school’s point of view, but also from the coach’s point of view as well. If Tommy Tuberville had a reasonable buyout number on his current contract with Auburn, he might very not be at Auburn right now, and that might have been better for everyone involved, but because Tuberville’s agent negotiated this deal that basically handcuffed Tuberville and Auburn to each other, Tommy Tuberville finds himself on the Hot Seat the first time his team gets itself in real trouble since the “Jetgate” incident.
The bottom-line from out point of view on head football coaches’ buyouts is that a school should strive for an “optimum” buyout that both protects the school in case the coach is hired away or if the school has to fire the coach. Of course, agents and coaches will push for as a large a buyout as possible, but coaches are now finding, as Rich Rodriguez found out (and maybe Tuberville as well last year) that having a huge buyout number is not always in the best interest of the coach. Our idea of an “optimum” buyout would fall somewhere around the salary that the head coach would be paid in one year plus a little extra to help pay off assistants contracts and for other incidental expenses. Any buyout larger than 1 year’s salary of the head football coach might very well put everyone involved in the situation into very uncomfortable positions if either party wants to get out of the contract, and we certainly hope that a little more common sense is brought towards coaching contracts and that appropriate buyout numbers be put into place so that coaches will both be loyal to the school they are currently coaching for, or will be able to move on without much difficulty if they become unhappy with their current situation or if a better opportunity opens up. In the end the goal of the school is to have a person coaching their football team that wants to be the head football coach of their team, and having large buyouts in coaching contracts only puts schools and even coaches in situations that they would rather not be in when the unforeseen circumstances change down the road. ADs should work very hard to protect their school and athletic department when negotiating a contract with their head football coach, but an AD should never forget that he is the employer and the coach is the employee, because the minute that relationship gets turned on its head, very troubling and bad situations can develop on both sides of the equation. Head football coaches should have fair and appropriate buyouts in their contracts to protect them if they are fired, but they also should have fair and appropriate buyouts in case they decide down the road that they want to move on to another school. Let’s hope that college football can move away from these huge buyout numbers in coaches’ contracts, because these buyouts are warping the decisions that schools are making when they consider what coaches they might hire for open jobs and when schools are considering firing a coach and moving in another direction with a new head football coach. In the end, if the buyout is “an issue” relative to the coach moving on or being fired, the buyout is too big. It doesn’t get any simpler than that when considering an appropriate buyout number for a head football coach.
We had several coaches nominated for the Week 9 Coaches Hot Seat Coach of the Week including Greg McMackin, Todd Graham, Charlie Weis, Joe Paterno, Nick Saban, Mike Sherman, Gary Pinkel, Mack Brown, Greg Schiano, Mark Dantonio, Steve Kragthorpe, Bobby Bowden, David Cutcliffe, Bo Pelini, Randy Shannon, Bret Bielema, and Al Groh, but the Week 9 Coach of the Week is….
Week 9 Coaches Hot Seat Coach of the Week
Coach: Greg Schiano
Sitting on a 2-5 record and heading for a road trip to Big East leader Pitt, Greg Schiano and Rutgers looked like they were dead in the water last week, but then suddenly there was life from the Scarlett Knights and a very big 54-34 win over the Panthers. It is hard to understand what got into Rutgers for this Pitt game, but Schiano had his team playing better in recent weeks with very close losses to Cincinnati and UConn, so maybe the Pitt game shouldn’t have been a total surprise. Schiano and Rutgers started off with a very tough schedule to open the season, Fresno State, North Carolina, and at Navy and they racked up a 0-3 start and then they continued to struggle once Big East play got underway. The most impressive thing about the Rutgers win over Pitt is that Schiano kept his team up through a string of losses and even came out and attacked the Panthers in a relentless way when they could have backed off after getting an early lead in the game. The challenge for Schiano now that he has stemmed the tide is to keep the momentum going after the big win over Pitt, but with an off-week and then a game against Syracuse at home, means Rutgers should be 4-5 when they travel to play USF on November 15. With Army and Louisville following the USF game to finish the season Rutgers has a decent chance to get to a 6-6 record in 2008, which would be quite an accomplishment after the 0-3 start that Rutgers got off to this season. Congratulations to Greg Schiano for winning the Week 9 Coaches Hot Seat Coach of the Week.
For the Week 9 “Goat” Coach of the Week we only had a few nominees and we would have given the award to Tommy Tuberville, if not for the performance of Dan Hawkins Colorado team against Missouri. 58-0 was the final score of the Colorado – Missouri game and that means that Dan Hawkins is…
Week 9 Coaches Hot Seat “Goat” Coach of the Week
Coach: Dan Hawkins
Now past the midway point in his third season at Colorado, Dan Hawkins is sitting with an overall record at CU of 12-21 (.364) and the frustration has to be building in Boulder for everyone, including for Dan Hawkins. We here at Coaches Hot Seat believe that Dan Hawkins is a very good football coach and he is above average to exceptional on the very important mental side of the game as well, but we are starting to get concerned that Hawkins and any other head football coach that would be hired at Colorado will never be able to climb the mountain that is the Big 12 conference. Yes, Bill McCartney won Big 8 and national titles at Colorado, but the Big 8 is not the Big 12, and with the number of quality football teams that is now and will be in the Big 12 every year we are having a hard time finding a way that Hawkins is going to be able to put CU even at the top of the Big 12 North division for the foreseeable future. The biggest problem facing Hawkins is that as he looks to the East towards the states that the other Big 12 schools play in, he sees lots of great recruits, but not only is the Big 12 picking up many of those recruits, schools in the SEC, ACC, C-USA, and even the Big Ten are recruiting hard in those areas as well. As Dan Hawkins looks to the West, mainly to the state of California for recruits, which is the place where McCartney made such hay during his years at CU, there are several Pac-10 schools that he must compete with and therein lies the problem for Dan Hawkins going forward. Yes, the recruiting problem or rather getting enough top recruits to Boulder is huge for Hawkins looking ahead, but the 2008 season is going on right now and with Colorado at 4-4 after getting blasted by Missouri, Hawkins and CU are entering a critical four game schedule to finish the season. Colorado finished at 6-6 in ’07 and went to a bowl game, and Hawkins certainly does not want to take a step backwards in ’08, and that is why the next 4 games at Texas A&M, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and at Nebraska are so important. First up is a very important game on the road against a struggling Texas A&M team, and this will be a game that a 3-5 Aggies team will want to win very badly as well. Colorado and Texas A&M have very similar amount of level of talent and this should be a very close game if both teams play well, but a loss in this spot for Hawkins and CU would make the final 3 games of the season incredibly important. Yes, a 4-4 record makes this game against A&M Saturday really BIG for Hawkins and the Buffs! For the 58-0 loss to Missouri Dan Hawkins is the Coaches Hot Seat “Goat” Coach of the Week.
Week 9 Coaches Hot Seat “Cry Baby” Coach of the Week
No “Cry Baby” Coach of the Week Awarded in Week 9
There you have the Coaches Hot Seat Coaches Awards for Week 9.
Let’s hope we have a couple of great football game tonight to really kick-off Week 10!