How NCAA Buyouts Incentivize Losing

Grant Piper News

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NCAA

Opinion

It is Saturday in autumn. Rivalry week no less. That means college football games will be kicking off shortly. The pageantry, the competition, the tradition. The money!

The chance for once great coaches to be buried in piles of money for being awful at their jobs.

Last week, Dan Mullen was fired as the coach of the Florida Gators after four seasons at the helm. As an avid Gator fan, I can tell you that his tenure had some very high highs and some very low lows. His performance was inconsistent, his defenses were not good and his post-game comments raised more than a few eyebrows. For the powerful people who run the show in Gainesville those things were enough to cut him loose one game before the end of the season.

For the most part, I liked the guy. He produces prolific offenses that are generally fun to watch and he has a proven track record of developing offensive players (Kyle Trask anyone?) that outperform their scouting projections. I felt bad for him when they fired him.

Then I read his buyout clause.

Per his contract, Dan Mullen is owed a whopping $12 million. Let me write that again. He is owed, legally bindingly owed, $12,000,000 for getting fired.

His contract calls for him to receive $6 million this week before getting an annual payout of $1 million for the next six years.

Not bad for someone who was essentially run out of town for being bad at his job.

That kind of money is more than enough to retire on. Mullen could ride off into the sunset never to be heard from again. But that won’t happen. He will resurface as the coach at a new program either next year or a year after. Then he will be in a position to receive yet another buyout if he gets fired again.

Do you see where I am going with this?

Will Muschamp, another maligned Florida coach, was paid a nice sum of $6.3 million to go away in 2014.

Just six years later in Muschamp received another buyout, this time from South Carolina, in the amount of $12.9 million.

Not too shabby.

Gus Malzahn’s buyout from Auburn that same year was $20 million and he was owed half of that money before he even left campus.

It pays to be bad at your job in the NCAA.

Muschamp’s most recent buyout was paid, in full, as a lump sum in 2020 making him the highest grossing NCAA coach that year. Nick Saban, the undisputed king of college football, was only paid $9 million for actually being good at his job.

Wild.

The reason why we know all of this is because this is all public money. These are public employees paid out with state money from state universities. The NCAA cannot bury these atrocious buyouts like respectable people because their salaries, contracts, and inevitable severance packages are public by law.

According to a report that came out earlier this month the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) paid out $533 million in dead money to coaches in a ten-year period spanning 2010 to early 2021. That equates to $53 million per year being paid to people like Dan Mullen and Will Muschamp for being fired.

A half a billion dollars.

That is a lot of money. Especially when so many students are in so much debt and players, up until just recently, were denied using their name image, and likeness to make money for themselves.

That would be a lot of money if it was paid out for performance bonuses. Instead, it was paid out to coaches who failed, were run out of town and needed to be paid off to simply get them out of your program.

Ouch.

This is not a one off practice. This is industry standard.

For example, are the five highest buyouts currently on the books just waiting to be dished out when boosters get upset with the results on the jumbotron.

  • Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M — $95.5 million
  • Dabo Swinney, Clemson — $47.5 million
  • Nick Saban, Alabama — $38.5 million
  • Tom Allen, Indiana (!) — $30 million
  • Ryan Day, THE Ohio State University — $28.4 million

Maybe the Gators did end up with a bargain.

That being said, I wish I had a buyout clause. I am not too proud to admit that I have had a few rocky patches in getting my freelance business up and running. I was fired by a client and all I got was a nasty email on a Sunday night. I would have settled for a year’s pay ($36,000 thank you very much) paid out in monthly increments.

I had a contract in which I got paid for previously agreed upon work with the understanding that said payments could be terminated if the quality or direction of the work changed. Or simply, if my employer decided they didn’t want to work with me anymore. Silly me.

So I got nothing. I suspect many of us don’t get anything when we’re fired. But the rich get richer, amiright?

New plan!

I will sucker some languishing blue blood NCAA football program (Nebraska?) to hire me, I’ll stink up the joint and then I will graciously accept a $5 million buyout to forget they ever saw me. Then I will retire and be done with the whole business.

Bill Moos can contact me via email about your future job openings at the Cornhusker football program.

I’d love to be considered for the job.

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A freelance writer with a passion for current events, politics, and history. I've been into the news from an age when people thought it was weird to be into the news.

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