What’s the cost to fire them?



The COVID-19 pandemic forced many college athletic departments to tighten their budgets last year – but it didn’t stop them from firing football coaches.

This year figures to be no different. One of the sport’s elite jobs has already come open, with USC moving to fire Clay Helton last month. Randy Edsall (UConn) and Chad Lunsford (Georgia Southern) have also been ouste.

As the second half of the season approaches, here’s a look at some of the other Football Bowl Subdivision coaches whose jobs might be in jeopardy, as well as how much it would cost to fire them without cause and whether they would be contractually required to look for new jobs or offset buyout payments with future salaries.

(Note: All buyout figures are calculated as of the arbitrary date of Dec. 1.)



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Manny Diaz, Miami

Buyout: Unknown

Mitigation/offset: Unknown

The Hurricanes’ loss to Virginia last month led to renewed calls for Diaz’s firing – a sentiment that had previously been expressed by some of the school’s trustees, according to The Miami Herald.

Although Miami finished 8-3 last year, it suffered a pair of lopsided losses to Clemson and North Carolina, and it was blown out again by top-ranked Alabama in Week 1 this year. The Hurricanes are currently sitting at 2-3.

While Diaz’s contract is not publicly available, multiple news outlets – including The Athletic – have reported that his buyout is around $8 million. The Miami Herald suggested it is less, and that the school’s buyout payments would be offset by future income Diaz earned if he got a new job.

Scott Frost, Nebraska

Buyout: $20.4 million

Mitigation/offset: Offset, but no specified obligation to mitigate

Frost is a Nebraska alum, and the school had lofty expectations when it hired him as head coach in late 2017. Midway through his fourth season in Lincoln, however, the Huskers still have yet to finish a season with more wins than losses. And they’re 10-20 in Big Ten play.

Frost has yet to live up to the terms of his contract; He is one of the 20 highest-paid coaches in USA TODAY’s salary database this year. Yet that contract could help him stick around, too. His buyout of $20.4 million is the 11th largest in the country.

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Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech

Buyout: $10 million

Mitigation/offset: Not addressed

The Fuente era at Virginia Tech has hardly been a failure, but there’s been a growing sense of restlessness in some corners of the fanbase over the past few years. After winning 19 games in Fuente’s first two season, the Hokies have gone 22-20 since. There’s been criticism of the team’s in-state recruiting efforts. And Virginia Tech’s offense has been consistently unremarkable.

Athletic director Whit Babcock has never been one to pull the plug early. In nearly a decades at the helm of Cincinnati and Virginia Tech, he has hired a total of two football coaches. But if he looks to make a change after this season, it would behoove him to wait until after Dec. 15, when Fuente’s buyout would drop from $10 million to $7.5 million.

Philip Montgomery, Tulsa

Buyout: Unknown

Mitigation/offset: Unknown

Believe it or not, only two dozen FBS coaches have been at their schools longer than Montgomery, whom Tulsa hired in late 2014. But the Golden Hurricane has had two winning seasons in that time – one of which came in a pandemic-shortened schedule last year – and so, Montgomery’s status is once again uncertain.

Little is known about his contract or buyout, because Tulsa is a private school. Montgomery signed a five-year contract extension in 2016, pushing his deal through the end of this season, but there have been few public updates on his deal since.

Ed Orgeron, LSU

Buyout: $17.2 million

Mitigation/offset: None

Though LSU is still less than two years removed from a national title, and this year’s squad has been decimated by key injuries, Orgeron’s seat is quite warm. The Tigers have gone just 8-8 over the past season and a half, and five of the six games left on their schedule this year are against ranked teams.

LSU is not accustomed to losing. The last time it finished below .500 was 1999. That said, a change wouldn’t be cheap. In addition to Orgeron’s $17.2 million buyout, the school would be the hook for a combined $9.5 million in buyouts if it wanted to fire the rest of his staff without cause.

Nick Rolovich, Washington State

Buyout: $4.3 million

Mitigation/offset: None

Rolovich’s place on the hot seat has little to do with football. And he could be out of a job in a matter of days.

Rolovich is the only major college football coach who has publicly indicated he would not get vaccinated against COVID-19 – which is significant, given that state employees in Washington are required to be fully vaccinated or get an approved medical or religious exemption. The deadline is Monday.

Rolovich confirmed last week that he is seeking a religious exemption. If it is not granted, there is a chance the Cougars could try to fire him for cause. Firing Rolovich without cause would cost the univesity a little more than $4 million.

Matt Wells, Texas Tech

Buyout: $7.1 million

Mitigation/offset: Offset, but no specified obligation to mitigate

Like Kliff Kingsbury and Tommy Tuberville before him, Wells has struggled to find sustained success at Texas Tech. The ex-Utah State coach is due to make more than $3 million this year, but during his tenure in the Big 12, his teams have won only six of their 21 conference games.

Per the terms of his deal, Wells would be due 70% of his basic pay if fired without cause – which would be about $7.1 million on Dec. 1. His contract does not state that he has an obligation to look for another job, but his buyout would be offset by future income if he did get one before the expiration of the agreement.

Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football coaches on the hot seat and cost of their buyouts


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