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Mike Fish Straight Shooting

Sign of the times

College football coaching contracts filled with lucrative incentives

Posted: Tuesday December 23, 2003 4:52PM; Updated: Tuesday December 23, 2003 5:04PM

Coaching Contracts
Click coach's name for contract details
AP Rank School Coach
1 Pete Carroll
2 Nick Saban
3 Bob Stoops
4 Lloyd Carr
5 William "Mack" Brown
6 Phillip Fulmer
7 Jim Tressel
Ohio State
8 Bill Snyder
Kansas State
9 Bobby Bowden
Florida State
10 Larry Coker
11 Mark Richt
12 Joe Tiller
13 Kirk Ferentz
14 Terry Hoeppner
Miami University
15 Bill Doba
Washington State
16 David Cutcliffe
17 Ron Zook
18 Dan Hawkins
Boise State
19 Gary Patterson
20 Rich Rodriguez
Wast Virginia
21 Les Miles
Oklahoma State
22 Frank Solich
23 Ralph Friedgen
24 Glen Mason
25 Urban Meyer
- Tommy Tuberville
Auburn University
- Gregg Brandon
Bowling Green
- John L. Smith
Michigan State
- Gary Pinkel
- Joe Novak
Northern Illinois
- Mike Bellotti
- Mike Riley
Oregon State
- Frank Beamer
Virginia Tech
- Keith Gilbertson
- Barry Alvarez
Coaching contracts were obtained via state Open Records requests filed by The Chronicle of Higher Education is the source of the university presidents' compensation.
The Salary Club
$2 million-plus
Bobby Bowden [Florida State]
Mack Brown [Texas]
Bob Stoops [Oklahoma]
$1.5-$2 million
Barry Alvarez [Wisconsin]
Frank Beamer [Virginia Tech]
Kirk Ferentz [Iowa]
Phillip Fulmer [Tennessee]
Glen Mason [Minnesota]
Mark Richt [Georgia]
Nick Saban [LSU]
John Smith [Michigan State]
Bill Snyder [Kansas State]
Jim Tressel [Ohio State]
Tommy Tuberville [Auburn]
$1-$1.5 million
Mike Bellotti [Oregon]
Lloyd Carr [Michigan]
Pete Carroll [Southern Cal]
Larry Coker [Miami]
Bill Doba [Washington State]
Ralph Friedgen [Maryland]
Keith Gilbertson [Washington]
Les Miles [Oklahoma State]
Gary Pinkel [Missouri]
Rich Rodriguez [West Virginia]
Frank Solich [Nebraska]
Joe Tiller [Purdue]
Ron Zook [Florida]
$500,000-$1 million
David Cutcliffe [Mississippi]
Urban Meyer [Utah]
Gary Patterson [Texas Christian]
Mike Riley [Oregon State]
Less than $500,000
Gregg Brandon [Bowling Green]
Dan Hawkins [Boise State]
Terry Hoeppner [Miami University]
Joe Novak [Northern Illinois]
Postseason big winners
$141,200 Frank Beamer/Virginia Tech: Non-BCS bowl $141,200 [plus 10% base salary increase for bowl games in first two years of contract]
$125,000 John L. Smith/Michigan State: Non-BCS bowl $125,000
$115,000 Rich Rodriguez/West Virginia: Big East title $75,000; non-BCS bowl $25,000; Top 25 finish $15,000
$75,000 Mack Brown/Texas: Non-BCS bowl $25,000; $50,000 ranked 4th or 5th in final poll
$62,000 Bobby Bowden/Florida State: ACC championship $31,000 [two month's base salary]; Orange Bowl $31,000.
$50,000 Mark Richt/Georgia: SEC Eastern Division championship $25,000; non-BCS bowl
$25,000 Kirk Ferentz/Iowa: Top 25 $50,000
$37,500 Ron Zook/Florida: Non-BCS bowl $37,500
$32,135 Dan Hawkin/Boise State: Conference title $11,815; bowl game $8,505; Top 25 final poll $11,815
$30,000 Gary Pinkel/Missouri: Non-BCS bowl $20,000; eight wins $10,000
Sweet Perks
Mack Brown/Texas: $1.6 million on his Aug. 27, 2004 birthday
Mark Richt/Georgia: $1.6 million for fulfilling contract
Phillip Fulmer/Tennessee: $1.05 million retention due Dec. 31, 2006
Glen Mason/Minnesota: $1 million for completing contract
Bobby Bowden/Florida State: $250,000 bonus Jan. 4, 2006, to mark 30th year at school
Graduation Rate Bonus
Kirk Ferentz/Iowa: $75,000
Jim Tressel/Ohio State: $30,000-plus
Ron Zook/Florida: $17,161
Bobby Bowden/FSU: $15,500-plus
Tommy Tuberville/Auburn: $7,115
Price to fire
Kirk Ferentz/Iowa: $3.5 million
Tommy Tuberville/Auburn: $3 million
Mack Brown/Texas: $2.75 million
Rich Rodriguez/West Virginia: $2.7 million
Lloyd Carr: $2.6 million
Buyout to leave
John L. Smith/Michigan State: $2 million
Mike Riley/Oregon State: $1 million
Les Miles/Oklahoma State: $850,000
Mike Belliotti/Oregon: $150,000
Dan Hawkins/Boise State: $100,000
More from Mike Fish
Find out what schools are doing with contracts to keep coaches in line on and off the field.
Click for full story

Talk about firing up the troops. If LSU needed another incentive while the team buses across I-10 to the Sugar Bowl -- and there's already a heap of pressure, thank you -- the Tigers can play Santa Claus and hand Nick Saban the college game's richest contract.

Simply put, the kids are playing the BCS title game for Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops' contract, or an even better one.

At play is a wonderfully sweet clause in Saban's deal, which requires LSU to renegotiate within 30 days of his winning the title and "pay him at least $1 more than the highest paid college coach.'' That's Stoops, Mack Brown and Bobby Bowden money, something in the annual $2.1 to $2.2 million range.

And what's in a national title for Stoops? Well, $150,000 on top of the $100,000 bonus already pocketed for landing the Sooners in the title affair.

Taking home the BCS prize is good. Thanks to a deal signed after last year's title game, Jim Tressel is guaranteed $200,000 if Ohio State earns a return trip over the next six years, and if the Buckeyes win, his contract will be torn up and renegotiated.

But, hey, Tressel is already living large. His new deal guarantees travel by private plane on recruiting trips to procure talent, with the promise of a jet aircraft on treks of 200 miles or more from Columbus -- plus 10 hours personal use of a jet each year.

And in case any NFL teams are interested in calling, Tressel has a window from the end of the regular season to Jan. 15 to entertain pro offers.

For college ADs, Urban Meyer has an interesting escape clause at Utah that lets him leave without penalty for the head job at Ohio State, Michigan or Notre Dame -- where he cut his teeth as an assistant coach.

Right now, it's the heart of bowl season and most top coaches are padding CEO-like salaries with lucrative performance-based incentives -- some more handsomely than others. Not that any of them need another perk. In fact, contracts obtained by under state Open Records laws reveal millionaire coaches oversee at least 20 of the teams currently in the Associated Press Top 25.

Conventional wisdom might have you believe the big-money coaches reside in the South -- the self-proclaimed home of college football -- but the Big 10 is surprisingly well represented, with at least seven millionaire coaches. And that doesn't include Joe Paterno of Penn State.

Take a look at the three-year extension just signed by Purdue's Joe Tiller. His new base salary is $218,000, which athletic director Morgan Burke told us is "irrelevant'' because the real money in coaching contracts is in the TV/radio and personal service guarantees. In this case, Tiller earns well over $1 million a season because of a unique clause guaranteeing him earning opportunities in the 75th to 95th percentile of Division 1-A coaches.

The figure fluctuates depending on team performance, and because of seven consecutive bowl appearances, Tiller brings home more than some bigger-name coaches. "This year he is probably in the top 10 to 15 coaches in the country,'' Burke said.

Most of the monies paid coaches these days filter through the universities, which is the case at Purdue -- but the dreaded third-party influence still exists in some places. The bulk of Mississippi coach David Cutcliffe's contract, for instance, is almost $700,000 supplemental income provided by the Ole Miss Loyalty Foundation. Florida coach Ron Zook's deal is with the non-profit University Athletic Association. At least $500,000 of Georgia coach Mark Richt's deal comes from a separate athletic association.

And, not surprisingly, everywhere you look these sideline bosses are rewarded far more handsomely than the presidents who sign their checks. That's market economics, we suppose. Or the belief that having Coach Right on your team spikes everything from TV contracts to apparel marketing deals and alumni donations

So perhaps that explains why sports programs routinely fall all over themselves trying to lure hot coaches to their campuses and then trying to keep them. Consider some of the unusual perks and largesse they enjoy:

 Texas athletic officials promised Brown a one-time, $1.6 million bonus on his 53rd birthday, next Aug. 27.

 Bowden pocketed a $50,000 bonus for surpassing Paul "Bear'' Bryant's Division1-A record 323 wins, plus he's due a $250,000 bonus Jan. 4, 2006, to mark his 30th year at FSU.

 An LSU option plan entitles Saban to annually purchase investment securities with fair market value of $200,000 at a discounted price of $100,000.

 If Oklahoma State is invited to a bowl four years out of any five-year period, Les Miles collects a $1 million bonus (So far, he's perfect in his two seasons.) Some Big 12 rivals even carry a price on their head, with Miles due $3,000 for wins against Oklahoma and Nebraska; $2,000 for K-State, Texas and Texas A&M. And a Top 10 recruiting class brings $3,000.

 At most places, NCAA rules violations are a fireable offense, but Auburn's Tommie Tuberville is good for $50,000 if the rules-challenged program completes a five-year period without SEC or NCAA sanctions.

 Proving that school spirit pays, Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer collects $325,000 from the Hokie Club for public relations; first-year Washington coach Keith Gilbertson $50,000 from Husky Fever.

Clearly, the legal folks drawing up contracts are hip to loading deals with incentives. It's not enough to hand over the keys to a luxury car or two and a country club membership. Now it's hard to find a prominent coach who doesn't have incentive clauses tied to the academic performance of his charges -- often in the form of graduation rates (Minnesota's Glen Mason gets $60,000 if the rate exceeds the general university average by 15 percent) -- and to a lesser extent the number of wins his team posts and even his ability to draw a crowd.

As an example, Rich Rodriguez' new deal pays $10,000 if West Virginia sells 30,000 season tickets; $20,000 for 35,000 tickets; and $30,000 for 40,000 tickets.

Or consider the potentially lucrative scale for reserved ticket sales written into Mike Bellotti's deal at Oregon: 4 percent of gross receipts between 17,500 and 20,000 tickets; 5 percent between 20,001 to 25,000; 6 percent between 25,001 to 30,000; 7 percent between 30,001 to 35,000; and 8 percent between 35,001 to 40,000.

Every coach gets an allotment of tickets to his team's home game, even a stadium suite in some cases. What's become a hot perk are tickets and travel arrangements for the family on the road.

Mason is guaranteed travel for immediate family and six guests. Iowa's Kirk Ferentz gets space for six guests on the team plane. Keith Gilbertson, the first-year Washington coach, is promised accommodations for his wife plus a $20,000 travel account.

And a few established coaches even write in perks benefiting their assistants. In Lloyd Carr's contract, Michigan agrees to allocate $155,000 to be divided among the assistants each July. At Virginia Tech, Beamer gets $33,000 for the entertainment of his assistants and their families, his coordinators work on five-year rollover contracts, and his assistants are guaranteed bowl-game bonuses.

That pays off nicely this time of year.

Mike Fish is a senior writer for

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