Antsy fans of Kansas University football already dreaming of a coaching change won’t like the reality of Turner Gill’s contract. It’s as one-sided in Gill’s favor as the recent outcomes have been for KU’s opponents.
If Gill were asked to leave at season’s end, the athletic department would have to come up with $8 million, within 90 days, to send him on his way. His five-year, $10 million contract does not include a buyout.
With big-time bucks already going to former coach Mark Mangino and former athletic director Lew Perkins, KU simply is not in a position to eat that kind of cash.
Not all Big 12 coaches have it so one-sided in their favor.
A review of nine other Big 12 coaches’ contracts — as a private institution Baylor is not required to release such information and the contract of Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville was not available as of Wednesday — showed that most coaches would suffer a financial penalty for terminating the contract. Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman, for example, would owe the Aggies $1.8 million (his annual salary) for leaving before his contract expires, just as Gill did when he had to pay the University of Buffalo $200,000 for taking the job at Kansas. KU Athletics paid that. Gill’s current contract does not include such a penalty.
Of the nine contracts available for this column, six were written with language more favorable to the university than Gill’s. Not surprisingly, the University of Texas and Oklahoma University stand to save the most via buyouts should they ever elect to dump football coaches Mack Brown or Bob Stoops before the end of their contracts. In addition, Oklahoma State would save 25 percent of its contract with coach Mike Gundy should OSU can Gundy without cause and Iowa State would save nearly 50 percent if the Cyclones hand Paul Rhoads his walking papers.
Why Gill’s contract was written in such a one-sided manner is puzzling, especially given he was making less than $500,000 a year at Buffalo. Optimists would say Perkins was so convinced Gill would upgrade the football program that he did not see the need to include language that is pretty standard in college coaching contracts.
Pessimists would question the competence of KU athletics, which just went through a messy divorce with Mangino. Because there was no buyout in place, Perkins had to launch an investigation into Mangino’s coaching tactics in order to scare the coach into thinking KU could fire him with cause. That put Mangino in the mood to negotiate and led to a $3 million settlement.
Burned once by not having a buyout clause, wouldn’t you think KU officials would’ve learned from their mistake and made sure to include one for Gill?
There’s a lot more than Gill’s salary to consider when talking about something as serious as firing a man who has not yet been given a fair chance to prove he’s a Big 12-caliber head coach. For one, he hasn’t been able to recruit players who fit his style. For another, Gill’s assistants make a combined salary of more than $2 million annually. Those are guaranteed for two years apiece, three in the cases of coordinators Chuck Long and Carl Torbush, who each make $350,000 a year.