Five worst deals among college football coaches’ contracts
For the 15th consecutive year, USA TODAY Sports has obtained and analyzed the contracts of college football coaches across the Football Bowl Subdivision.
And some deals, as always, are more lopsided than others.
While some FBS coaches look like bargains for their respective employers, others have contracts with bloated salaries, excessive perks and terms that could prove financially dubious should the team’s performance dip.
Here are five such contracts, that signal victories for coaches at the negotiating table but provide the least value to their respective schools due to a variety of factors, including total compensation, buyout parameters and recent performance.
See salaries for college football coaches through the years
Explore the numbers
Ed Orgeron, LSU
Orgeron’s deal might have seemed like a bargain 18 months ago, after he led the Tigers to a national championship. But now … not so much.
The 60-year-old Orgeron is due to nearly $8.7 million in compensation from the school this year, including a $2.5 million premium payment on a split-dollar life insurance policy. His basic pay is $6 million.
If Orgeron is fired without cause on Dec. 1, he will be owed a little less than $17.2 million – an amount that is feasible for a school like LSU, but nevertheless substantial. And after the events of the past year, it appears entirely possible that such a firing could occur. The Tigers finished 5-5 last year, and they are 3-3 this year. The football program has also been the subject of Title IX allegations uncovered by USA TODAY last year.
Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M
Fisher has a massive contract at least in part because he, like Orgeron, is among the handful of active coaches who have won a national title. (Mack Brown, Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney are the others.)
But even Fisher’s track record of success doesn’t justify the blatantly lopsided deal that he’s received in College Station.
Not only is Fisher among the highest-paid coaches in the FBS, at $7.5 million, but he also has the longest contract in the sport, thanks to a four-year extension he received in September.
The deal, which ties Fisher to Texas A&M for the next decade, is also fully guaranteed. This means that if the school wanted to fire him without cause at some point between now and the start of the 2027 season, for example, it would owe him at least $50 million.
Scott Frost, Nebraska
The Huskers finished 4-8 and 5-7 in Frost’s first two years at the helm, but Nebraska administrators gave him a two-year contract extension anyways, stretching his deal through the end of 2026.
In the year-plus since, Frost’s teams have gone 6-9, losing twice as many Big Ten games (eight) as they’ve won (four).
Simply put, Frost is once again among the highest-paid coaches in the Big Ten – his $5 million in total compensation is tied for fourth – but his team has yet to make it to a bowl game, or post a winning record in a season. To make matters worse for Nebraska, Frost’s deal also has the third-largest buyout clause in the conference. The school would owe him more than $20 million if it decided to make a change this year.
Tom Allen, Indiana
Allen certainly appears to have Indiana on the right track. While the Hoosiers are below .500 so far this year, all three of their losses have come against ranked teams, and they’ve now made bowl appearances in back-to-back years.
Despite those results, Allen’s contract has some potentially problematic elements for Indiana – namely, the whopping $30 million buyout clause. Only Fisher, Saban and Swinney would be owed more money than Allen if fired on Dec. 1.
Allen’s contract – which will pay him an average of $4.9 million annually, thanks to a revision earlier this year – also has an automatic extension provision. Every year the Hoosiers make a bowl game, Allen’s deal is extended by a year.
Herm Edwards, Arizona State
In terms of basic pay from the school, Edwards’ contract is par for the course among Pac-12 coaches, at $3.7 million. But it is also laden with incentives, making it a potentially dicey deal for Arizona State.
Edwards’ contract offers six-figure bonuses if the Sun Devils hit rudimentary academic benchmarks, for example. Plus $100,000 for winning eight games, and an additional $100,000 for every win thereafter.
Those provisions are why Edwards pocketed more than $600,000 in bonuses two years ago, and more than $400,000 in such payments last year.
Contact Tom Schad at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football: Ranking worst coaches contracts of 2021 season