There's a lot at stake in Monday night's BCS National Championship game.
Especially for Les Miles.
The LSU coach will get a $5,880,000 bump in salary should his Tigers prevail over Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide.
It's a tremendous bonus that is more lucrative because of Saban himself and it's the second time Miles would benefit from Saban's high salary. When LSU won the BCS National Championship after the 2007 season, its head coach Les Miles received one of the biggest bonuses in coaching history: $11,586,000.
Why did he make so much?
Because he had a clause in his contract that stipulated that if his team won a National Championship, the school would have to pay him $1,000 more than the highest paid SEC coach.
The highest paid SEC coach at the time? Nick Saban at $3.75 million. The way the clause is written, the school had to guarantee Miles $3,751,000 as a base salary for the remaining six years of his contract. That will be the case once again if the Tigers win.
This time it's Saban, who is scheduled to make a base salary of $4.73 million in 2012. Miles, who is still at $3,751,000, would then have to make $4,731,000. That's a boost of $980,000 a year for the remaining six years of his contract
The "highest paid coach" contract was actually invented by former LSU athletic director Skip Bertman when negotiating Saban's LSU contract with his agent Jimmy Sexton. At the time, Sexton said the clause originally said that Saban would become the highest paid coach in all of college football if he led LSU to the title, but after Saban came through with his part of the deal, there was a major hitch.
Although several media reports had speculated on their salaries, LSU couldn't convince USC to release contract details to provide a copy of Pete Carroll's contract to find out exactly how much he was making.
"I think Bob Stoops was the highest we knew at the time," Sexton said. "And Mack Brown at Texas was up there. But USC is a private school so they didn't have to tell us."
In the end, LSU raised Saban's base salary from $1.6 million to $2.3 million, confident that it had delivered on making him the highest paid coach in the country. But with the new seven-year contract he signed, LSU elected to take the "highest paid coach clause" out of his contract.
After the 2004 season, though, Saban left LSU to take the head coaching job at the Miami Dolphins. Miles replaced Saban at LSU and Miles' agent George Bass was able to get LSU to put the "highest paid coach" clause into his client's contract. But when Miles' LSU team beat Ohio State to win the title in the 2007 season, LSU found that USC, and another private school, Notre Dame didn't want to share the contracts of Carroll and Charlie Weis.
"I called Bob Lamonte (who represents Weis) and LSU called the schools, but they didn't want to help us," Bass told CNBC.
After a month and a half, Bass and LSU eventually decided to settle the terms in March 2008.
The amendment read: "In light of the fact that two of the higher paid coaches are at private institutions that do not make publicly available the terms and conditions of their contracts, and that the existing contract is not specific as to whether it includes or excludes consideration of such contracts under these circumstances, and to avoid uncertainty, we mutually agree to clarify the existing contract relating to postseason compensation for the present and future years...The total annual compensation shall be no less than the highest salary within the SEC, plus $1,000."
Saban was then known to be the highest and Miles got his bump. Since the contract terms changed to highest paid in the SEC instead of the nation, Miles has Notre Dame and USC to thank again for not cooperating. Had his contract said "highest paid coach," he would be paid $5,192,100 for an LSU win. That's because the highest paid coach in the country right now is Texas' Mack Brown at $5,192,000. Over six years, that will cost Miles an additional $2,766,600.
Of course, Miles can still make more money if Alabama loses, but still raises Saban's contract for next year. Bass said that the bump Miles would receive in salary is guaranteed for six years, but the base salary only must be $1,000 more than Saban's 2012 contract.
For what it's worth, bonuses do not count in the "highest paid coach in the SEC" clause. Bass said Miles has already earned $700,000 of the $800,000 in possible bonuses in his contract. Saban has earned $200,000 so far and can earn at least another $200,000 for winning the title.
Although both Saban and Miles have had the "highest paid" clause in their contract, there aren't many others, if any, that have it in their contract.
Will this change?
"My sense is that it's not going to be too easy to get," Bass said. "I think it happened with Nick and Les because they both had leverage. Schools aren't going to just sit down and offer it up so quickly."
Sexton thinks its a nice reward for the upper echelon of coaches, but thinks it can be very costly if any school other than a powerhouse wins the title an has to pay off its coach.
"Let's say that a coach is making $2 million and he wins a national championship," Sexton said. "All of a sudden, the school has to make a huge payday."