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.

It is likely that this year will be no exception. USC has fired Clay Helton from his position as the top job in the sports. Chad Lunsford, Georgia Southern’s Chad Edsall and Randy Edsall (UConn), were also ousted.

The second half of this season is approaching. Here are some details about the jobs of other Football Bowl Subdivision coach. Also, how much it might cost to fire them. And whether or not they would have to contractually look for other jobs, offset buyout payments, or continue to receive future salaries.

(Note: Buyouts are calculated using the Dec. date as an arbitrary reference. 1. 

Manny Diaz from Miami

Purchaseout 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. 

Miami was 8-3 in last year’s season, but it lost to Clemson, North Carolina and Alabama. In Week 1, it was again beaten by Alabama. Current standings of the Hurricanes: 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 reported that it was less and that future income Diaz could earn from a new job would offset the buyout payments.

Scott Frost, Nebraska

Buyout $20.4 million

Mitigation/offset: However, there is no obligation to mitigate.

Frost graduated from Nebraska in the late 1970s and was a Nebraska alumni when he was appointed as its head coach. The Huskers are still in the middle of Frost’s fourth season, but they don’t have a winning season. The Huskers are also currently at 20 in Big Ten play. 

Frost still hasn’t lived up to his contract. This year, he is among the highest-paid coach in USA TODAY’s salary database. Frost could still be a part of the contract. The 11th-largest buyout in the country, at $20.4 million, is his.

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Justin Fuente at Virginia Tech

Buyout $10 Million

Mitigation/offset: It is 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. Since Fuente left, the Hokies went 22-20. They won 19 in Fuente’s first two seasons. The team’s efforts to recruit in-state players has been criticized. The offense at Virginia Tech has not been remarkable.

Whit Babcock is an athletic director who has never pulled the plug too early. Two football coaches have been hired by him in nearly 30 years at Virginia Tech or Cincinnati. If he wants to make changes after this season it is best to do so after Dec. 15 when Fuente would have his buyout drop to $10 million from $7.5 million. 

Philip Montgomery, Tulsa

Buyout Unknown

Mitigation/offset: Unknown

Tulsa, who hired Montgomery in 2014, is one of only two FBS coaches that have been with their school for longer than Montgomery. 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.

Tulsa, a private school, is not able to provide any details about Montgomery’s contract or buyout. Montgomery was granted a 5-year extension to his contract in 2016 which extended his agreement through the season’s end. However, there has been very little public information about his contract since.

Ed Orgeron LSU

Buyout $17.2million

Mitigation/offset: None

LSU remains less than two years away from winning the national title and their squad is already ravaged by injuries. Orgeron is very comfortable in his seat. 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 has never lost. It was last below.500 in 1999. A change would be costly, however. 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 isn’t the only one who has a seat at the top. In a matter days, he might be fired.

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. Deadline is Monday.

Rolovich last week confirmed that he was seeking religious exemption. The Cougars may fire Rolovich if he is denied the religious exemption. Rolovich’s firing without cause will cost the university a bit more than $4million.

Matt Wells, Texas Tech

Purchaseout $7.1million

Mitigation/offset: However, there is no obligation to mitigate.

Wells is no different to Tommy Tuberville or Kliff Kingsbury, who have struggled with Texas Tech’s sustained success. While the ex-Utah State coach will make over $3 million this fiscal year, his teams won just six conference games during his time in Big 12.

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. While his contract does not say that he is required to find another job, his purchase would be compensated by future income for any such position.

Tom Schad, [email protected] and on Twitter @Tom_Schad


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