In business, they call it a golden parachute–when an outgoing CEO is set up in salary and comfort on his way out the door. It’s the trappings of the job. First order: protect your own house. Although you can’t rightly compare head coach Gene Chizik to a CEO–he’s more the president or Chief Operating Officer because he’s got Jay Jacobs and Jay Gouge to answer to (At TET, we have Jay Coulter, but I digress). Needless to say, most head coaches in FBS–especially the ones that have gone through a contract extention–have their version. It’s called the buyout clause. I think it’s a true barometer of how well a coach is doing at an institution–and how entrenched he really is on the job.
A buyout clause seems kind of silly to me for an employee who’s job is often times based more on hype than merit and subject to the whims of up and down seasons played out by teenagers for the most part. It rarely seems to work at preventing a bigger/better team from poaching your guy either. Perhaps it’s a relic borrowed from the NFL where there are 33 employers as opposed to the hundreds in the college ranks. Regardless, it’s standard fare in the profession at this level but all it seems to do is escalate coaching salaries into the stratosphere and ensure a lot of failed coaches can retire early if they want. I guess it’s good work if you can get it.
Not that I blame the coaches for taking it. No sir. I am a free market capitalista. Get what you can get the market to bear. Then get some more. The problem I have is with the schools agreeing to pay it in the first place and then being held hostage by it later down the road. It just always to be insufficient when you need to protect your guy and inconvenient when you want to ride him out on a rail. Obviously, we’re talking about Chizik’s buyout at a time when most fans want to punish the figurehead for all the ugly things we’ve seen on the field and yank his job. It’s a gut reaction but seems to be the prevailing one.
If Chizik is fired on December 1st, he is owed a buyout of $7.5M. But he doesn’t get a lump sum. It’s to be made in monthly payments for the remainder of his contract AND it’s offset by any additional ‘football’ revenue he earned, from coaching to broadcasting. I guess the Auburn athletic department learned their lesson after Terry Bowden sat on the sidelines figuratively for years and got paid to do nothing. The buyout amount decreases roughly $200k each month, down from an original high of $10M last year. The whole staff might incur a buyout of ten mil. Regardless of whether or not we’d like to exercise the payments option, do we really need another ex-wife on alimony?
Think of all the fans you’ve heard in the last few weeks saying we should pony up that whole $7.5M in one shot just to get Chizik gone. Think of all the boosters out there who fancy themselves as power brokers of the institution, conniving a way to funnel that money into the program to leave their stamp on the booting of a man who’s picture and autograph they probably have hanging in their office. Chizik signed his new contract less than 16 months ago. Has he really changed for us that much in such a short amount of time? But no, we remind ourselves, “this is simply business”.
This scenario is one of the reasons I try not to contribute directly to the athletic department–the hypocritical dysfunction of the hiring, promotion, and firing of head coaches that I just layed out. Don’t worry, I don’t blame you if you do. Somebody has to be the enablers. I just don’t want it to be me. I could never donate money to this institution when they spend it so cheaply, recklessly, and on occasion, shamelessly. What does that say about the Auburn family when we are so wont to cast out our own like this? Yes, Chizik is one of our own. He may have originally been a hired gun but he bought in to Auburn and we embraced him. Now we’re so quick to cast him out of our east Alabama Shangri la. Shame on us for giving up so soon.
Most of the polls say that roughly two-thirds of us think that Chizik WILL be fired at the end of the year, but not many seem to address if we think he SHOULD. Mark me on record for the following–yes, he will, but no he shouldn’t. That would be my vote if I were a shareholder in Auburn Inc.