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Football-related coaching and administrative moves likely will cost major-college athletics departments at least $110 million in buyout-related expenses, a USA TODAY analysis has found.
The figure is based on commitments connected to the firings and hirings of head coaches, assistant coaches and athletics directors at public schools, according to school documents and interviews with athletics departments officials.
The final total won't be known for several years, as some amounts are being spread over time and subject to offset from the future income of fired employees who could get raises from new employers. Also, there are payments that haven't been determined. For example, Arkansas is negotiating with former head coach Bret Bielema over the amount of his buyout, university spokesman Kevin Trainor said in an email Monday. Tennessee athletics director John Currie remains suspended with pay while the nature of his eventual departure from the school is determined.
New Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher's buyout for leaving Florida State -- which presumably will be paid by Texas A&M -- will be determined by the eventual employment and pay outcomes of his Florida State staff. Under the staffers' contracts, Florida State owes each of them the amount left on their contracts, payable over the remaining term and subject to offset from future income. The amounts left to Florida State, if any, become the responsibility of Fisher, who has a agreed to a 10-year, $75 million contract with Texas A&M. Two assistant coaches who worked for Fisher at FSU are joining him at Texas A&M, essentially giving his new employer a say in what it likely will owe his former employer.
Arkansas might end up with the greatest tab, even with the amounts owed to Bielema and former AD Jeff Long subject to offset. The combination of Bielema's university contract and a separate, newly released contract he had with Arkansas' private athletics fundraising arm indicates that he is owed at least $5.9 million but perhaps as much as $15.4 million. Long is owed $4.6 million.
In addition, Arkansas agreed to absorb buyouts that its new head coach and AD owe their former employers. According to their respective offer letters, that will be as much as $2 million for coach Chad Morris and $350,000 for Hunter Yurachek. The offer letters also say Arkansas is treating these payments as taxable wages but that the university will make sure Morris and Yurachek have no resulting tax liability. Depending on their income tax situations, that could cost Arkansas more than $1 million more.
On top of all of this, Arkansas could have to pay assistant coaches more than $3 million, subject to offsets from future income, although Morris is retaining one member of Bielema's staff and another member of that group has been hired by UCLA.
Altogether, using the minimum amount for Bielema, fired head coaches are owed a total of nearly $74 million.
Five schools have agreed to make a combined total of $10 million in payments related to covering buyouts owed by head coaches they hired away from other schools. These range from the $25,000 South Alabama is paying to Central Arkansas for hiring Steve Campbell, to the nearly $4.4 million that Florida State is scheduled to send to Oregon for hiring Willie Taggart's.
The amount on Taggart's behalf involves two components: Nearly $1.4 million that was due last week to reimburse Oregon for a portion of the buyout it paid to South Florida after hiring him in December 2016, and $3 million payable over the four-plus years that remained on his deal with Oregon.
Assistants are owed more than $31 million. Though a sizable portion of that will be offset, some large amounts won't be, at least not fully. Florida owes defensive coordinator Randy Shannon nearly $2.2 million over a two-year period. While Shannon has been hired for the same job by Central Florida, new UCF head coach Josh Heupel's memorandum of understanding with the school calls for an assistant coaches' salary pool totaling $2.5 million.
Plus, Washington State is owed a $250,000 buyout by defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, whose move to Ohio State was announced Monday, and Mississippi State is owed $162,500 in connection with defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's switch to Florida.
Among ADs, if Tennessee determines that Currie's firing is not for cause, the total owed by three schools will be just less than $12 million.
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