Texas A&M University football coach Kevin Sumlin may have had his pride wounded when he was fired this weekend. But financially, he'll be no worse off.
Thanks to a raise and contract extension awarded to him in 2013, Sumlin is still entitled to the $10 million he would have been paid if he hadn't been fired by A&M, according to his employment contract.
That means Sumlin will join the ranks of several other coaches from Texas who will be paid millions by state schools not to lead their teams anymore.
According to his contract, Sumlin earned a base salary of $5 million per year. His deal entitled him to all that pay through the end of his contract — Dec. 31, 2019 — unless he was fired "with cause" for some kind of criminal or NCAA rules violation. Sumlin was accused of no wrongdoing when he was dismissed; he simply didn't win enough games.
With a little more than two years left on the deal, Sumlin is owed more than $10 million.
What's more, there's no clause in the contract allowing A&M to reduce what it owes Sumlin if he gets a new job at a new school.
The university is required to pay the money in a lump sum within 60 days of Sumlin's firing, according to the contract. The timing of those payments are sometimes renegotiated upon a coach's firing. But A&M gave public no indication that anything had changed. The school's statement announcing Sumlin's dismissal ended with the following sentence: "Texas A&M will honor the terms of Sumlin's contract."
Big payouts for fired college coaches are hardly rare, but Sumlin's payout is relatively large and has been a source of frustration for some fans. Sumlin's pay was bumped to $5 million per year after his first season — one of A&M's most successful seasons in the modern college football era. At the time, he was rumored to be a candidate for jobs at other universities or in the National Football League.
The A&M athletics director at the time, Eric Hyman, later told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he "had nothing to do with the extension" and that he was stunned by the amount.
When the University of Texas at Austin fired its former football coach Charlie Strong last year, he also had two years and $10 million left on his contract. There was basically no buyout in that deal, either, but the amount was reduced slightly when Strong took another job at the University of South Florida.
UT-Austin has also paid buyouts to fired basketball coach Rick Barnes and fired athletics director Steve Patterson in recent years.
If anyone can afford those payouts, it's UT-Austin and A&M. Those two schools are the only ones in Texas that fund their athletics departments without any annual subsidies from the academic sides of their universities. The two schools led the country in college sports revenue in 2015-16, the last year for which information is publicly available.
But the expenses will probably keep piling up for A&M as it parts ways with its assistant coaches and seeks to make a splashy new head football coach hire.
Disclosure: Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
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