The absurdity of college coaching deals

Alabama Scene

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent E-mail:

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent E-mail:

The University of Alabama for a period of time paid Mike Shula at the rate of $63,492.06-a-month not to coach the Crimson Tide. The school doesn’t have to pay him quite that much now because he found a coaching job in the pro ranks. But they still have to pay him the hefty difference in his buyout and what he now makes as an assistant coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Shula’s buyout came from a base payment of $3 million, plus his base salary of $200,000 a year for each of the five years remaining on his contract at the time the deal was finalized in 2006. Why hurry to get another job when you can earn bread like that and play golf every day?

Tommy Tuberville, according to media reports, “resigned” as Auburn’s coach last week, but will still receive most of the $6 million in his buyout deal. According to Tuberville’s contract, he was supposed to receive the payment only if he was fired and he would have owed the university that money if he were to leave for another job. So I ask all who believe Tuberville really resigned to raise your hand. Remember Tubs has already been paid his $2.8 million salary for 2008.

What happened is that Auburn played a “word game” and let Tuberville off the hook by allowing him to pretend resignation and agree to stay on and assist Auburn president Jay Gogue. Here’s a quote on that issue from athletic director Jay Jacobs. “Tommy and I have had the opportunity to discuss the direction of the program. Through those discussions, Tommy felt it would be in his and the program’s best interest to step aside as Auburn’s head football coach. Yeah, sure.

Tuberville has a better deal than Shula got, perhaps because he had Montgomery lawyer Jere Beasley negotiating his contract. Tubs will get half within 30 days and the other half by the one-year anniversary date of the contract’s termination. According to the contract, pro rata payments were to be made for partial years, so Tuberville will receive a mere $5.2 million and there is no stipulation that he will have to repay any amount if he gets another job. He will likewise get to play a lot of golf.

Not only will Tuberville be compensated generously, so will his coaches. Auburn will be paying Tony Franklin’s $280,000 salary and defensive coordinator Paul Rhodes’s $305,000 salary through 2009 and the salaries of the other assistants through next June.

A better idea for paying coaches

Here’s my idea of how to pay football coaches. Schools base salaries on ticket sales and give the coaching staff $5 per ticket sold per game. It wouldn’t cost the university any more because they could just raise the price of the game tickets.

As I calculate it this would be generous pay for most coaches. Sales of 90,000 tickets per game (most major colleges have close to that many seats and play six home games per year) would generate $2.7 million to pay the coaching staff. To give the coaches a raise, just increase the amount a dollar or two. This serves a dual purpose. The folks who attend the games will be paying the piper and taxpayers who “don’t give a hoot” wouldn’t be saddled with expensive college football debt.

The universities like to make the claim that the huge salaries of coaches and many other expenses of the football program are paid with non-taxpayer money…such as funds from alumni groups and foundations. “The (Tuberville) buyout will not be fulfilled from any state or university funds,” according to an Auburn news release. That’s hyperbole at best. If the money to buy out coaches isn’t public money, then how do the participants circumvent the state’s ethics laws? Does anybody remember Guy Hunt?

I am disappointed in the actions of both universities in these two incidents, particularly Auburn, where two of my sons have graduated. Perhaps both schools and all coaches and fans should return to the philosophy of Paul W. Bryant, who adhered to a policy of always keeping his salary $1 below that of the university president.