College Coaching Contracts are the Worst


Jan 6, 2014; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns president Bill Powers (left) and head football coach Charlie Strong (center) and athletics director Steve Patterson (right) speak at a press conference in the Centennial Room of Belmont Hall at Texas-Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

College coaching contracts are the worst contracts in sports. They are even worse than MLB contracts where players like Dan Uggla and BJ Upton can hold franchises hostage for millions of dollars while they perform on a level not worthy of a AAA salary. College coaches get paid a ton of money then if they get fired they are paid the balance of their contracts and they can up and leave for another job with little to no penalty.

Do you know why NFL coaches don’t jump from one team to the other? Or NBA coaches? Or MLB coaches? It is because they have non-compete clauses in their contracts. That is, they can’t make a lateral jump to a competing franchise. Coaches jump from the NFL to college and vise versa, but  college football is not in direct competition with the NFL. Sean Payton can’t leave the Saints for the Buccaneers if they offer him more money – he has to wait until his contract expires.

Penn State, Miami, Florida or any other program is in competition with Mississippi State. Whether the Bulldogs play them or not, those programs are within the same Football Bowl Subdivision structure and are therefore in competition for the same goals…so they should not be able to steal one another’s talent.

When I worked for a large corporation, I had to sign a non-compete contract before I started the job. I could not go to work for any other company who manufactured/sold the same product within a 150 miles radius of where I was working. I’m sure a lot of you have also signed a non-compete clause with the company you work for.

The problem with college coaches is they do not have non-competes. Ole Miss can take Arkansas State’s head coach, North Carolina can take Southern Miss’ coach, Texas A&M can take Houston’s coach, Texas can take Louisville’s coach, etc. These coaches are free to go anywhere they want with virtually no restrictions. How did this happen?

Not only do college football and basketball coaches have this luxury that almost no other industry allows, but their contracts ALWAYS include massive buyouts if they get fired. Every time a coach has a good year, they want the administration to re-up their contract. The coach has all the power in this negotiation because the administration is in fear the coach will leave for another program that will give them a long-term deal. So they “lock-down” the coach, even though they are still one year away from getting canned and the school forks over millions while they sit on their couch!

If the NCAA would require non-competes in coach’s contracts it would prevent programs from losing large sums of money because of the racket coaches and their agents have going. The buyouts aren’t the problem, but the fact that a coach can sign a contract and then leave for a lateral position is.