Weis' Deal Likely Won't Change Big Money Contracts

Charlie Weis
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Charlie Weis

At a news conference yesterday, Notre Dame head football coach Charlie Weis said that he would “have a tough time arguing” with school officials if they fired him.

What he wouldn’t do is resign.

The difference between the two? It’s a lot of money.

Resigning could compromise his buyout package, which depending on who you believe, is as low as $4 million and as high as $18 million.

The only reason why Auburn’s Tommy Tuberville still took home his $5.1 million buyout when he resigned last December was because athletic director Jay Jacobs called it “the right thing to do.”

If the buyout is closer to $18 million for Weis, it will easily set the all-time record for a coaching severance package.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest buyouts reportedly paid out by schools to coaches:

  • Denny Crum, Louisville, $7 million
  • Phil Fulmer, Tennessee, $6 million
  • Tommy Tuberville, Auburn, $5.1 million
  • Dennis Franchione, Texas A&M, $4.4 million
  • Tommy Bowden, Clemson, $3.5 million
  • Bill Callahan, Nebraska, $3.1 million

So how did we get here? Part of it is because of supply and demand and the desperation of athletic directors to get deals done. Having a good football program is so important to revenues that coaching agents have been in the driver seat for negotiations in last decade.

But a lot of these packages aren’t all a buyout fee. Many of them include years and years of guaranteed contract money. And that part of the deal isn’t expected to change any time soon.

The idea has always been to have five fresh years on a contract at all times so that recruits can feel good about their coach. And while it’s not necessarily sound business to extend contracts and guarantee the money to go along with it, it’s just part of the price you have to pay.

It’s good to be a coach or a coach’s agent these days.

When Weis signed a six-year extension in October 2005, he was 5-2 and had Notre Dame ranked in the Top 10. But there was little information at the time that would lead Notre Dame to believe that NFL or college teams were legitimately courting Weis.

But signing big extensions has become the norm.

Earlier this month, Western Kentucky fired its football coach David Elson, who thus far is 0-10 on the season. Last January, the school signed Elson through the 2016 season. He’ll now receive a buyout of $500,000.

Former Kansas State football coach Ron Prince signed a new five-year, $5.5 million contract before the 2008 football season. When the Wildcats only won five games, they fired Prince. The contract called for Kansas State to pay $1.2 million plus a $150,000 prorated longevity bonus. But Prince’s attorneys say that there was also an agreement to pay him the rest of his contract ($3.2 million).

Athletic directors obviously have a tough job to do. They never want to lose their head football coach to another school. But there’s a fine line. Does everyone really deserve five-year guaranteed contracts?

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