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The hiring of a head football coach is a pretty big deal at the University of Texas.
It's such a big deal that Texas paid $266,990 to a search firm to help find the right person for the job, according to invoices obtained by USA TODAY Sports this week.
The executive search firm Korn/Ferry International billed Texas $250,000 for helping hire coach Charlie Strong in January, plus an administrative fee of 6% -- $15,000. An additional invoice dated March19 charged Texas $1,990 in expenses, mostly travel expenses for Korn/Ferry consultant Jed Hughes.
That outsourced total of $266,990 puts Texas in the same rarefied air as Colorado State, which paid about $320,000 to search firm Spencer Stuart for its football coach search in 2011, CSU spokesman Mike Hooker confirmed to USA TODAY Sports. The breakdown for CSU's search was a $250,000 fee, plus about $70,000 for other expenses, Hooker said.
Those two coaching searches cost far more than what other public schools paid for similar services in recent years.
Famed search consultant Chuck Neinas has done several placements in college sports and told USA TODAY Sports last year he charges $50,000 a search.
Another popular search firm in college sports in recent years, Parker Executive Search, often has charged schools about $75,000 to $90,000.
But this is Texas, which has one of the nation's biggest athletics budgets with $146.8million in operating expenses in 2012-13.
Texas also hired Korn/Ferry to help hire an athletics director last year for $200,000 plus expenses. That search ended with the hiring of Steve Patterson from Arizona State, who is paid $1.4million a year.
As the new athletics director at Texas, Patterson then worked with Hughes of Korn/Ferry to hire then-Louisville head coach Strong, whose contract at Texas starts at $5million a year.
The use of executive search firms in college sports has at times been controversial, especially when the candidates they help hire for a school fail at their new jobs.
Critics also question why highly paid athletics directors need an outside contractor to hire a football coach and why they don't use their university's human resource departments to help screen candidates.
Supporters of using outside firms say they help keep the hiring process secretive along with providing skilled expertise and vetting for important positions.
Officials at Texas didn't respond to messages seeking comment about the amount paid to Korn/Ferry. Hughes didn't return messages seeking comment.
Filling vacancies is big business for Korn/Ferry, which also was hired by Arizona State, for $200,000, to help fill the opening left by Patterson when he left for Texas.
Korn/Ferry also has been involved in placing Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien with the NFL's Houston Texans, Andy Reid as head coach of the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs and two hires at the University of Southern California: Steve Sarkisian as football coach and Andy Enfield as men's basketball coach.
Southern California, as a private school, wasn't required to disclose what it paid the firm, whose sports business is spearheaded by Hughes, a former college and pro assistant coach with an office in New York City.
Texas' contract with Korn/Ferry said the firm would provide the following services to the university in its search for a football coach to replace Mack Brown:
Help market the position and obtain qualified candidates.
Use commercially reasonable efforts to identify a qualified and diverse pool of talent to consider as applicants.
Assist the search committee in the screening of potential applicants.
Assist the committee with the interview process, including making travel arrangements for candidates.
Hughes signed the contract to conduct the Texas coaching search Dec.20. Strong's hiring was announced by the university 16 days later, on Jan.5.
After Strong's hiring, on Jan. 15, Korn/Ferry sent a follow-up e-mail to the office of university President Bill Powers, making sure the school did not require Korn/Ferry to "conduct employment reference checks or an education verification for Charlie Strong."
Powers replied, "Confirmed and correct."