Published 12:39 PM EDT Oct 3, 2018
As part of its annual coaches' compensation package, USA TODAY Sports has obtained and reviewed the most recent contracts of more than 130 Football Bowl Subdivision coaches over the past year. And for the schools that hired those coaches, some of these contracts are better deals than others.
Here are five contracts that provide the least value for their respective schools, based on total compensation, buyout parameters and performance, among other factors.
Database: Breaking down what each coach makes
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
The more you examine Ferentz's contract, the worse it looks for Iowa. His base compensation for 2018 is $4.7 million, but it is also riddled with incentives – bonus opportunities that Ferentz should regularly hit, inflating that number.
If the Hawkeyes simply make a bowl game, for example, Ferentz will receive a $100,000 bonus. If they win seven games, his entire staff will receive an automatic 8% raise. And if they win eight, as they have in the first two years of the contract, he'll get an additional $500,000. (Winning seven games or more would also trigger an automatic increase in his buyout clause.)
Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M
How bad did the Aggies want Fisher? Judging by the lopsided nature of his contract –Pretty darn bad.
Not only is Fisher due $7.5 million in total compensation this year, which is among the steepest salaries in the country, but if Texas A&M wanted to fire him, they'd owe him whatever's left on his 10-year, $75-million deal. (As of Dec. 1, that would be more than $68 million, with Fisher under no responsibility to offset or mitigate that sum with future earnings.) If Fisher wanted to leave on his own, meanwhile, he'd owe the school nothing.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
In response to reported interest from Arkansas, the Tigers reworked Malzahn's deal and gave him an annual raise of nearly $2 million – a hefty increase, even by SEC standards. But the real issue here is the buyout. Last year, as of Dec. 1, it would have been $6.9 million. This year, because Malzahn's new contract effectively guaranteed 75% of his deal, it would be more than $32 million.
Now, is Malzahn likely to be fired in the next few years? Probably not. But remember, this is a school that canned Gene Chizik less than two years after he won a national title. Anything could happen – and the Tigers could find themselves on the hook for a huge chunk of money, which Malzahn would not have to mitigate or offset.
Urban Meyer, Ohio State
The domestic abuse allegations against former Buckeyes assistant coach Zach Smith, and how Meyer handled them, cast this contract in a completely new light.
Meyer is due to make $7.5 million in 2018 – more than anyone except Alabama coach Nick Saban – and he is under contract through 2022. The deal had previously been viewed as expensive but otherwise unremarkable. Now, following the investigation into Meyer's conduct related to Smith, it feels like Ohio State is kind of stuck – all but married to a coach with a damaged reputation and a massive $38.06-million buyout, as of Dec. 1.
Lovie Smith, Illinois
Smith is 7-21 as coach of the Fighting Illini, and he has as many wins over Football Championship Subdivision opponents (two) as he does against Power Five schools in his tenure thus far. And yet, he's due to make $5 million in 2018, which makes him one of the top-10 highest-paid coaches in the sport. (Note: This figure includes a $1 million retention bonus that Smith will receive if he remains Illinois' head coach on Jan. 1.)
Smith's contract also has a significant buyout – $12.67 million as of Dec. 1 – that would make it difficult for the school to adjust course – after this season, anyways. According to the terms of his deal, Smith's buyout would drop to a little more than $4 million following the 2019 season, and a little more than $2 million after 2020.
Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.