The best gig in college football might just be getting fired

When Wisconsin takes the field Saturday at Northwestern, Jim Leonhard will be the coach. Sometime before February 1, 2023, the man Leonhard replaced, Paul Chryst, will receive $11 million for not doing his old job.

When Arizona State plays Stanford on Saturday, Shaun Aguano will coach his third game in search of his first victory. The man Aguano replaced, Herm Edwards, fired after three games, owes his full salary this season, not to mention his 2023 and 2024 salaries: $10.8 million for not coaching. This comes just five years after athletic director Ray Anderson paid former coach Todd Graham $12.8 million to leave so he could usher in the Edwards era at Tempe, a new college tradition of paying two men at a time. time.

This is the best: Nebraska could have let Scott Frost, who once quarterbacked the Cornhuskers in a national championship, coach during last Saturday’s game against Indiana. Firing him after Oct. 1 would have meant the school was in hot water for a total buyout of $7.5 million. Instead, Nebraska decided, after a loss to Georgia Southern on September 10, that it couldn’t see Frost for even two more games. So the school will pay him $15 million do not train —or twice as much as if he had waited a few weeks.

When an NFL owner makes a mistake with a coach or executive and has to move before the contract is up, he’s eating money. When a college athletic department or athletic director does the same thing, they can go, hat in hand, to all sorts of places: wealthy sponsors who would rather pay $1 million than see another loss to State or Tech, maybe the fundraising arm of athletics. Department. There is enough cash to pay one person to train and another not to. Just don’t suggest paying players. (We’ll get to that.)

Universities are more willing than ever to pay football coaches not to train

The season is five weeks old and coaches at five Power Five conference schools have already been fired: Chryst in Wisconsin, Edwards at Arizona State, Frost in Nebraska, Geoff Collins at Georgia Tech and Karl Dorrell in Colorado. Total token that will be paid to them, again, do not train: More than $55 million, according to the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

Pointing out that the finances surrounding college athletics have gone off the rails is like revealing that two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen make up water. It is so obvious that it is hardly worth repeating. That schools are willing to break with decades of traditions and alliances and rivalries to realign themselves with other combinations that will pay them more is not so much heartbreaking as it is pragmatic, the realities of a landscape guided not by educational institutions but by television networks.

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But the fall of 2022, even before the second weekend of October, college football finances have reached their time to jump into the shark. It’s not that Kirby Smart is making $10.25 million to train his national champion Georgia Bulldogs or that Lincoln Riley is raising more than $10 million a year to resurrect Southern California. At least they’re training and not on the couch.

There’s a truth about college sports that makes them more prone to gluttonous habits than even their pro brethren. If the New York Jets fire coach Adam Gase with two seasons remaining on his contract, as they did in early 2021, owner Woody Johnson has to eat the money. The money from him. The NFL is ruthless, but at some level, with quick triggers on the coaches, it’s the owners who cut their throats. It could make even billionaires stop.

If Nebraska fans can’t stand the thought of Frost training against Oklahoma and Indiana, athletic director Trev Alberts can pull the trigger, and if it costs the school an additional $7.5 million … well, in pre-Launch days pandemic, the Cornhuskers’ athletic department raked in $97.5 million in revenue, according to the Lincoln Journal-Star. And that is prior to the seven-year, $7 billion media rights deal between Big Ten and Fox was forged. What’s $7.5 million between friends?

It all leads to some comical jokes along the lines of unemployment. On November 27, 2021, Ed Orgeron managed his last game at LSU, which let him go. In December 2021, LSU paid Orgeron $5.68 million. In January 2022, the school paid him $667,000. In June of this year he paid her $750,000. In December, the check will be for $1 million.

“We had a meeting,” Orgeron said during a speech last month, describing his conversations with LSU athletic director Scott Woodward that led to his firing.

According to Orgeron, Woodward said, “Coach, you have $17.1 million on your contract. We’re going to give it to you.”

Orgeron laughed at the recount. Her response from him? “What time do you want me to leave, and what door do you want me to go through, brother?”

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The last of the 18 payments will be $426,000 in December 2025, ensuring that there will be enough food for another nice Christmas at the Orgeron household.

What world. Coaches, of course, worry these days about the impact name, image and likeness rules could have on their ability to recruit and retain talented players. But the rise in NIL payments to marketable athletes doesn’t mean the gargantuan tubs of money schools make from ticket and merchandise sales and conference television contracts are shrinking. NIL is not drawing funds from that bucket. It is a completely new cube.

Buddy Pough is a legend in South Carolina. He should be a legend everywhere.

And the faucet keeps pouring into old buckets, with no single person responsible for paying the bill. So if Chryst, who posted a .738 winning percentage and won six of seven bowl games in his first seven years at his alma mater, starts 2-3 and Illinois beats him at home, well, then the Badgers have the money. to make it go away, from the University of Wisconsin Foundation, the school’s main investment and fundraising arm. If Edwards loses to East Michigan and the program is running out of steam, the Sun Devils can pay him to leave while paying someone else to come. Not a penny comes out of Anderson’s pocket, and he can rely on others to financially cover his (repeated) mistakes.

Impatience is at an all time high. If Colorado had waited until Jan. 1 to fire Dorrell, it would have cost the school a total buyout of $7.8 million. Because he did so after an 0-5 start, the school will pay $11.4 million. Two decades ago, savvy athletic directors began getting ahead of the hiring curve — and signing days — by firing coaches with a game or two left in the season. Florida did this with Ron Zook in 2004 because he gave the Gators a chance to get ahead of the race for Utah coach Urban Meyer, who was going to be coveted.

Now, a couple of games remaining seems like maybe five games too late. So we’re past the era where the easy complaint was, “My God, these guys get paid a lot of money to football coach” – and it came at a time when they get paid a couple of generations from life savings to not train him.

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