Oct 5, 2022 - Sports

Fired college football coaches make millions in buyouts

Illustration of a stack of hundred dollar bills underneath a football field.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Last year, an unprecedented three NCAA football bowl subdivision coaches were fired during the first five weeks of the college football season. This season, five have lost their jobs in that same span.

Why it matters: These firings come at a steep cost, as it has become the norm for coaches to negotiate huge buyouts into their contracts that guarantee a substantial portion of their salary if they're canned.

By the numbers: The five universities that have fired their coaches this season — all Power 5 programs — owe them a total of $56.7 million in buyout money.

  • Scott Frost, Nebraska ($15 million buyout)
  • Karl Dorell, Colorado ($11.4 million buyout)
  • Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech ($11.3 million buyout)
  • Paul Chryst, Wisconsin ($11 million buyout)
  • Herm Edwards, Arizona State ($8 million buyout)

The big picture: Over the past decade, public universities have spent $530 million to fire college football coaches, per the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

  • That's an exorbitant sum to pay coaches to go away, but schools — flush with cash from lucrative TV deals and rich boosters willing to write checks — can afford it.
  • Consider this: Nebraska could have saved itself north of $8 million on Frost's buyout if they waited 20 days to fire him. They decided it wasn't worth it.

What they're saying: These ballooning buyout figures "reflect the backwards economic logic of college sports," writes WSJ's Laine Higgins.

  • "As long as the money isn't permitted to flow from schools to athletes, it has to be spent somewhere."
  • "Hiring a good coach — or firing a bad one — is seen as one of the most sound investments an athletic department can make."
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