Jim Harbaugh’s ranking among Big Ten coaching contract buyouts will surprise many people. This detail, most notably, makes it significantly easier for Harbaugh to bolt back to the big leagues if offered a NFL contract.
I remember being blown away when Larry Brown’s buyout was announced after he was fired from the Pistons in 2005. His contract included a clause that paid him $7M of the nearly $21M that remained on his 5-year contract. I couldn’t fathom someone getting paid NOT to coach. Since then, contract buyouts have evolved to become the key ingredient in coaching contract negotiations.
Kliff Kingsbury, recently fired from the Arizona Cardinals, bought himself a one-way ticket to Thailand. He has 5-years left on his contract and will enjoy the bi-weekly payouts headed his way. Matt Rhule was famously fired from the Carolina Panthers less than 3 years after signing a seven-year, $62M contract in 2020.
$40 MILLION! That’s an eye-popping figure. That’s more than the $29.8 million the Mets are still paying off for Bobby Bonilla. That’s more than Nick Saban’s buyout at Alabama. It’s $25 million more than Scott Frost snatched up from Nebraska last year.
When the University of Nebraska hired Scott Frost as head football coach in 2018, the school had high hopes that he would bring back the glory days of the program. Frost had been a standout player for the Cornhuskers in the 1990s. He was the quarterback on the 1997 national championship team that also featured Ahman Green. However, Frost’s tenure as a coach was less successful than his playing days, and he was ultimately fired three games into the 2022 season with a 16-31 record.
A buyout is a sum of money that a coach is entitled to receive if he/she is fired without cause.
One of the major factors in Frost’s firing was the buyout clause in his contract. A buyout is a sum of money that a coach is entitled to receive if they are fired without cause, as a way to protect them from financial hardship. In Frost’s case, he had four years remaining on his contract and was owed a $15 million buyout. If the university had waited until October 1st to fire him, they would have saved $7.5 million in buyout money.
Buyouts are becoming increasingly common in college football coaching contracts, and they play a crucial role in protecting both the coach and the university. For the coach, a buyout ensures that they will be financially secure if they are fired without cause. For the university, a buyout protects them from losing their coach to another university or professional team. However, buyouts can also be a financial burden on the university, especially if it has to pay multiple buyouts in a short period of time.
In college, the money for buyouts often comes from boosters, who are major donors and fundraisers for university athletics programs.
Boosters can act quickly to round up their assets, which is why buyouts are often financed by them. However, this can also be a disadvantage for the university as they may not be able to use the fundraised money to upgrade facilities or to spend on academic programs.
Universities in the future may offer higher buyouts when hiring a coach to protect themselves. This will also make the buyout for the coach higher if they get fired without cause. The issue of buyouts is a double-edged sword, but one that may be necessary as coaches are changing jobs more frequently.
As rumors swirl of Jim Harbaugh bolting for the NFL, it’s worth taking a look at the contract buyouts of other coaches in the Big Ten. The conference has seen its fair share of high-profile coaching changes, and the buyouts associated with those changes can be staggering. Harbaugh’s spot in the current rankings may surprise you.
To give a better understanding of the scale of these buyouts, here is a list of the top 9 contract buyouts for coaches in the Big Ten:
9. Mike Locksley, Maryland
Total Contract Buyout: $11,266,667
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
8. Greg Schiano, Rutgers
Total Contract Buyout: $16,143,750
Brent Skeen-USA TODAY Sports
7. P.J. Fleck, Minnesota
Total Contract Buyout: $19,770,833
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
6. Tom Allen, Indiana
Total Contract Buyout: $24,900,000
Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
5. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
Total Contract Buyout: $35,410,651
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
4. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Total Contract Buyout: $43,000,000
Syndication: The Tennessean
3. Ryan Day, Ohio State
Total Contract Buyout: $52,416,666
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
2. James Franklin, Penn State
Total Contract Buyout: $72,666,667
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
1. Mel Tucker, Michigan State
Total Contract Buyout: $86,687,500
Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
It’s worth noting that these figures are as of 12/1/2022. Additionally, the numbers are subject to change depending on the source and the specific details of the contract. Nonetheless, it’s clear that contract buyouts can have a significant financial impact on both the coach and the university.
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