What The Contract Could Look Like For Brady Hoke's Successor
Unsurprisingly, college football coaches have demanded lengthier and more fruitful contracts. When one party comes to the bargaining table with more demands, naturally the other party will want to hold its own place and match the increasing level of demands with its own set of demands. The University of Michigan Athletic Department is one party that may not be able to enjoy that luxury. As interim athletic director Jim Hackett has a team conduct the search for the new head football coach, coaches who are on the cusp of potential transitions themselves have the power. Potentials' names are being tossed around, analyzed, scrutinized, praised, and suggested, and once the team has narrowed down the candidate pool to the final few, Michigan will hand over the control to a degree while maintaining its artificial luxury - "artificial" because it is hard to bargain when your bargaining chip is tantamount to a dumpster fire.
Why? Literally no one is blind enough to overlook Michigan Football's plight. Even The Onion had a scintillating satirical feature on the program's puzzle. Michigan Football yearns for the leader with unquestionable character and a proven successful track record after the media probed into Rich Rodriguez's character and Brady Hoke was rather unfairly personally attacked by the entire nation. Hackett stated that he is looking for a coach who can "[win] with the shared values of the University of Michigan." Regardless of whether the candidate considers a position in Ann Arbor a "dream job," and notwithstanding the elite facilities and the program's deep-rooted tradition, the puzzle can be solved accompanied by a substantial cost. I have full confidence that the puzzle will be solved so long as Michigan treads cautiously in negotiating and drafting the final employment agreement's terms. A candidate for what may or may not be the finest position in all of college football could negotiate his (or her... maybe one day) way to a contract containing the highest salary, unprecedented benefits, and a secured position guaranteed for a period of time that exceeds any other possible proposal the candidate would ponder.
Duration: The contract term could be six to eight years, though it depends on how much time was left on the new coach's old contract with the previous university. For instance, Nick Saban is under contract with Alabama now through January 31, 2022 after signing an extension this year. Michigan would be wise to lock in a coach for a long contract like this. Realistically, though, long-term contracts for college football coaches mean very little because of the high turnover rate (Exhibit A and B are the Wolverines' past two head coaches).
- Base Salary: Michigan tends to be among the upper registers for coach base salaries. For example, both Rich Rodriquez and Brady Hoke earned a base salary of $300,000 from the university. I predict that the base salary for the new head football coach will remain constant at $300,000 because (1) no coach in his right mind would come to coach this program without a significant guaranteed salary, and (2) that is precedent.
- Additional Compensation: This is where a coach's earnings from the television and radio shows, sponsorships, endorsements, and other various promotions fall. Rodriguez's contract awarded him about $1,650,000 per year to fulfill these employment requirements. Hoke's additional compensation increased $100,000 per year from $1,700,000 in his first year. Michigan's new coach will need to do a lot of promotion work and marketing to help rebuild the brand and image, and his compensation should reflect that hard work off the field. Therefore, here, the contract could surely include a starting figure upwards of $2,200,000 per year (i.e., $500,000 more than Hoke's starting additional compensation figure) and grow about $100,000 to $200,000 each year.
- Bonuses & Incentives: What was once the holder of the longest bowl streak in history is now a generally unqualified program that prays to the deities for a six-win season. The Michigan Loyal have definitely taken for granted bowl game appearances, and the new coach's contract will have to powerfully award consistency in post-game appearances now more than ever. Moreover, the university obviously wants a leader who consistently brings success to stay. So, the contract may include about $2,500,000 to $3,500,000 that vests in the coach mid-way through the contract's duration and again at the end of the contract as a "stay bonus" before any extensions in the picture at that time take place. It will also likely include "deferred compensation" that the coach collects in a separate bank account, and the university could make the coach's right to that account vest only if he stays through his contract.
- Buyout Clauses: Whatever the price, Michigan will buy the new coach out of his current contract with a big thank you. In return, the new coach will have a tiered buyout amount that decreases yearly. My guess is it will start at $3 million after the first year and consistently decrease to a minimum $1 million. The university will likely invest more money into this coach and will want to protect that investment and, if it chooses carefully, will want to keep him around for longer than three or four years. After all, that is the goal to start a new era of Michigan Football.
- Termination Clause: This is the one area where I believe the school can play its cards and get a "W." According to industry standard, Michigan will include "for cause" and "without cause" sections governing the new head football coach's termination should it arise. What the university should do is construe "for cause" termination more broadly than it has in the past to protect itself from situations similar to what it has seen in the past approximately seven years. Brady Hoke's employment contract was technically terminated "without cause" according to the contract's definition of "for cause" despite, and the university would be smart to revamp that clause's scope, expressly and implicitly.
Benefits Package: Housing, family relocation, country club packages, suite tickets, and cars will likely be included, among other miscellaneous benefits. It is only fair to give the carefully selected leader benefits such as these when he contractually agrees to rebuild the market value of the block "M."
Conclusion: Based off Hoke's salary on a year without the Incentives Bonus and based off Stanford coach David Shaw (who I believe may be the answer to Michigan Football's puzzle courtesy of his history as a quarterback coach and his ability to maintain the strong Stanford program that Jim Harbaugh constructed) and his current salary of just over $2,000,000, I believe the university could and should grant a salary of no less than $4,800,000 per year to Hoke's successor. Also, considering Nick Saban at Alabama is by far the highest paid college football coach in the nation with compensation totaling $7,300,000 (the second highest salary is $5,000,000), I could also see Hoke's successor becoming the highest paid college football coach with compensation totaling approximately $7,800,000 when the incentive benefits vest and when the team sees post-season action. This translates roughly to just over $5,000,000 of "compensation" excluding the base salary and those two amounts in addition to initially paying any applicable buyout to lure the coach away from their current program. Is this feasible? Yes because this is Michigan. Logical? Yes because Michigan Football is a huge part of the university's identity. Realistic? I believe so. Whoever it is has one heck of a mess to clean up, one heck of a mark to rebuild, and one heck of a fan base to bring hope to.
[Note: While some of these numbers appear to come out of nowhere, there is some economic analysis that I would not dare bore you with!]