What Does it Cost to Fire a College Football Coach?

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As coaching-carousel season approaches, many Football Bowl Subdivision coaches appear to be on shaky ground, and many administrators might soon find themselves wanting to make a change.

How much would it cost to fire those head coaches on the arbitrary date of Dec. 1?

Here's a breakdown of each hot-seat coach's buyout, and whether it can be offset or mitigated by salary from his next job, according to the terms of contracts reviewed by USA TODAY Sports.

David Beaty, Kansas

Buyout: $3 million

Mitigation/offset: Not addressed

The Jayhawks have been shut out by Iowa State (45-0) and TCU (43-0) in consecutive weeks to drop to 1-6 this season and 3-28 in Beaty's tenure, with just one win over an FBS team during that span. Midway through Beaty's third season, there have been few signs of improvement. And for a school that pays its basketball coach upwards of $4.7 million annually, a $3 million buyout would certainly be manageable.

Bret Bielema, Arkansas

Buyout: $5,874,227

Mitigation/offset: Yes

A 2015 amendment to Bielema's contract created the misconception that his buyout is $15.4 million. In reality, the $15.4 million figure must be plugged into a formula in his original deal -- essentially divided by the total length of the agreement (in months) and multiplied by the number of months remaining on the deal, which runs through Dec. 31, 2020. The math reveals a buyout of $5.87 million that, while pricey, is not prohibitive, especially for a coach whose team has been outscored by 90 points over the last three games.

Todd Graham, Arizona State

Buyout: $12,266,667

Mitigation/offset: Not addressed

Athletics director Ray Anderson declined to extend Graham's contract at the end of last season like he had in previous years, an ominous sign for a coach who went 28-12 in his first three seasons at Arizona State but has gone 15-17 since. The cost of buying out Graham, however, is the entire salary left on his contract, which would put Anderson and company in a tough spot if they wanted to make a change.

Butch Jones, Tennessee

Buyout: $8,125,000

Mitigation/offset: Yes

The Vols have lost three consecutive games by a combined margin of 101-16 and are 2-8 in their last 10 SEC games, causing unrest among fans in Knoxville. Will first-year athletics director John Currie want to bring in a fresh face? Jones' buyout is relatively reasonable and includes a clause that would require Jones to not only seek a new job but also report his quarterly income to UT through the end of the deal. If Jones failed to do so, according to the terms of his contract, "the University's obligation to continue paying liquidated damages to Coach shall cease."

Brad Lambert, Charlotte

Buyout: $813,184

Mitigation/offset: Yes

It's been a tough transition to the FBS for Lambert and the 49ers, who have gone 7-25 since making the leap from the Football Championship Subdivision level in 2015. Change would come at a relatively cheap price for Charlotte, especially because Lambert, who previously worked as an assistant at Wake Forest and Georgia, has a mitigation clause in his deal.

Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina

Buyout: $1,633,333

Mitigation/offset: Yes

The Pirates fired Ruffin McNeill after a 5-7 finish in 2015, but they've won only five of their 15 games since under Montgomery. With a challenging remaining schedule, East Carolina could very well finish 2-10 and prompt athletics director Jeff Compher, who just signed a five-year extension, to go back to the drawing board.

Jim Mora, UCLA

Buyout: $12,275,000

Mitigation/offset: Yes

The most recent amendment to Mora's contract specifies that his buyout will be 80% of the guaranteed compensation remaining on his deal. There's also a school-friendly mitigation clause, which states that Mora's "lack of diligence" in seeking another job or "refusal of a reasonable offer" effectively voids UCLA's buyout responsibility.

Barry Odom, Missouri

Buyout: $1,462,500

Mitigation/offset: Yes, but no specified obligation to mitigate

Though it's unlikely the Tigers would cut ties with Odom after just two seasons, doing so wouldn't cost much. For an SEC school such as Missouri, Odom's buyout of $1.46 million is incredibly cheap -- and, because it is related to the time remaining on his contract, it will continue to shrink over time.

Mike Riley, Nebraska

Buyout: $6,630,000

Mitigation/offset: Yes

The athletics director who signed off on Riley's one-year contract extension in March was fired this season. And that move, plus a 3-4 start that featured a loss to Northern Illinois, has put Riley's future in Lincoln in question. If new athletics director Bill Moos wants a fresh start for his football program, it will cost him upwards of $6 million unless Riley, 64, takes another job.

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Buyout: $10,416,667

Mitigation/offset: Not addressed

After a shocking season-opening loss to UCLA and a too-close-for-comfort win over Nicholls State, Sumlin appears to be working his way off the hot seat. Wins over Arkansas and Florida, and a competitive game against Alabama, help Sumlin's case, as does his buyout, which shrinks by more than $400,000 every month.

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October 26, 2017


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