Happy Wednesday, SporticoU-ians. I’m starting with a non-sports business aside; I hope you’ll forgive me. There’s been plenty of good soccer to go around with the World Cup and whatnot, but another match stole the show Monday night when UCLA beat UNC in the Women’s College Cup for the NCAA title in double overtime. What a game. The Bruins overcame a 2-0 deficit (the first time in NCAA history a team has come from two goals down to win the title) late in the second half, tying the match with 16 seconds on the clock (!!) to force overtime and then won, with a first-year head coach to boot (the first rookie coach in NCAA history to win a women’s soccer championship). Even UCLA’s AD was at a loss for words.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming. ’Tis the season for college football to send the coaching carousel spinning. With that, hirings and firings—and buyouts—become a hot topic of conversation.
Things really ramped up with the news that Deion Sanders was leaving Jackson State for Colorado, which not only doesn’t yet have the money to pay Coach Prime the $29.5 million they promised him over the next five years but also is not worried about that fact at all. Athletic Director Rick George literally said as much in a press conference. Now, Colorado probably wouldn’t have made Sanders an offer that big if they didn’t think they could pay him, but it still seems like a strange thing for an AD to admit? Maybe that’s just me.
On to the good stuff. Sanders will owe the Buffs money if he leaves early, and the amount dwindles as years pass, which is standard protocol—$15 million if he leaves the program in the first year, $10 million if he departs in year two and so on. On the flip side, if Sanders is fired without cause, Colorado is on the hook for 75% of his remaining contract. Read: The Buffs (which operate on one of the smallest athletic department budgets within both the Pac-12 and the entire Power Five) probably shouldn’t fire Sanders in year one, or two, three or even four…
Speaking of millions, Auburn is bringing Hugh Freeze back to the SEC—and paying him an average of $6.5 million per year, with his own 75% buyout built in, on top of reportedly covering his $3 million Liberty buyout.
Even bigger bucks than that? What the Tigers owe former head coach Bryan Harsin, whose six-year deal with Auburn, which was just signed in 2020, included a 70% buyout. That amounts to a casual $15.575 million upon his firing this fall.
And the numbers just keep growing: Luke Fickell’s buyout at Wisconsin could be as much as 80% of the total contract value.
Coaches who definitely aren’t on the hot seat? TCU’s Sonny Dykes, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, Ohio State’s Ryan Day and Georgia’s Kirby Smart. That’s because they all punched their teams a ticket to the College Football Playoff, which will officially expand in 2024. Expansion means more money, honey. So much more that some critics view it as nothing more than a money grab, but I digress.
Fun fact? Smart is the 10th highest-paid coach in U.S. sports—not just college sports, but all sports—trailing the only two other collegiate coaches to make the cut on Sportico’s list of the 10 highest-paid coaches: Alabama’s Nick Saban, who comes in at No. 8, and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, who sits at No. 9. Only six NFL coaches and one NBA coach make more than those three gents.
Smart’s No. 1 Georgia will play No. 4 Ohio State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, and No. 2 Michigan will take on No. 3 TCU in the Fiesta Bowl, both on New Year’s Eve. Sorry, USC, no semifinals for you. (Although the Trojans’ loss to Utah did draw 6.23 million viewers, good for the biggest audience in the Pac-12 championship’s 11-year history, and was a sellout for the first time. Not a bad few days for the Conference of Champions.)
Mark your calendars. Until then, the college volleyball playoffs are rolling right along as the sport soars in popularity, with rising attendance and viewership numbers to prove it. Regionals start Thursday. Haven’t watched a match yet? Maybe this will entice you.