Why even bother with contracts?

Bobby Curran
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Friday - June 08, 2007
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When is a contract not a contract? Apparently when it involves a college coach. Unlike just about any other contract, when a coach has one with a university and a better offer rolls around, the current convention is that the coach is let out of his or her existing deal to head off for greener pastures. The university, having made a significant commitment of time and money, is left with nothing to show for it.

When Texas A&M basketball coach Billy Gillespie was wooed by Arkansas, the Aggies offered to nearly triple his salary. Gillespie announced he was staying in College Station, and he did - for all of five days - before scampering off to Kentucky.

It is a situation repeated endlessly in football and basketball. We may see a change in the way universities deal with the problem.Already many coaches are looking at having to pay expensive buyouts if they leave early. The next step could be refusing to grant permission for other schools or pro teams to talk to coaches under contract. After all, student-athletes are not allowed to leave their schools without penalty.

This is news because of the situation involving Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan. Following his second consecutive NCAA championship, Donovan signed a five-year, $27.5 million deal with the NBA’s Orlando

Magic. Three days later he changed his mind and asked out of the contract in order to remain at Florida, where he will make $2 million a year less, but where he and his family are very happy.

Some are clamoring for him to be held to the contract, but this does not strike me as quite the same thing. Orlando has no investment in him yet, he has not started the job, and except for some embarrassments, no real harm has been done. Which is very different from Miami Dolphin Coach Nick Saban bolting for the University of Alabama after the Dolphins allowed Saban to change their whole organization. And then Saban gets off the plane in Tuscaloosa and begins prattling on about integrity and commitment.

Am I the only one that smells something awful here?

Speaking of contracts, the going rate for college football and basketball coaches that can deliver winning programs has skyrocketed. UH football coach June Jones has one year remaining on his deal, and you’d expect contract negotiations to begin fairly soon.

Bet you never thought you’d see a Hawaii coach making more than $1 million a year, but that’s the market, and compared to his contemporaries, Jones might be worth more than that.

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