Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How Can I Get This Kind of Deal?

Imagine getting fired, and getting millions of dollars as a result? This is happening as we speak with at least two college football coaches, Al Groh at the University of Virginia and Charlie Weiss at the University of Notre Dame. Groh is getting 4.3 million bucks for the last two years of his contract at UVA. I don’t know what Weiss is getting for the last six years of his ten year contract, but I would guess it is a staggering amount.

And I wonder, how can I get this kind of deal? Where I get fired and receive millions of dollars? I’ll be glad to sign such a contract. I like sports as much as the next guy, but this just seems ridiculous to me. Things are out of control when college coaches make that kind of money for doing a lousy job. Hell, it’s out of control if they make millions a year doing a great job. Why should a college football coach get 2, 3, or 4 million dollars a year when department heads and professors are getting only a small fraction of that? Which contributes more to the true mission of a university?

The even more amazing thing is that the universities involved have to raise the money from donors to buy out these contracts, and that people will donate big bucks to get rid of a coach so that the university can at the same time pay big bucks for a new coach. How does that happen? Does the athletic director just pick up the phone and call some wealthy alumni? I would guess that the conversation goes something like this…

“Hi, Mr. Jones. This is Bill Smith, Athletic Director of your Alma Mater, Old Notre Dame. How are you? Great! Look, thanks for your past generosity, but we have a real crisis here. A few years ago, I really screwed up. I gave a new coach with only half a season on the job a 10 year iron-clad contract. Yeah, I know – dumb! My bad! Yes, I know. Yes, you’re right. Yes, he did talk a great line, didn’t he? Well, look, that is water over the dam. But it turns out that he has a worse winning percentage than the last guy we hired and fired. Oh, you were already aware of that? Yeah, six wins and six losses this year is not what we expect at Notre Dame, is it? So what we are doing is canning him, but we need to raise $20 million dollars for the last six years of his contract. Can you help? Oh, great! Can I put you down for two million bucks? Oh wonderful! Thanks so much, Mr. Jones, for your generous donation to such an important cause. Yes, that’s right, I will be a little more careful with the next coach’s contract, don’t worry. Thanks again. You have a wonderful day!”

One man’s opinion – you give a coach a long contract, you live with the consequences. UVA would not fold if Al Groh coached two more years. Notre Dame would still recruit good players if Weiss coached the last six years. Schools should learn from it – be careful with contracts. If I were wealthy enough to donate that kind of money, I would feel nauseous donating it so that someone could sit on their butt with millions of dollars in the bank. They ran the school’s program into the ground so we will give them millions of bucks?

As much as I would like to have a deal like that – fat chance - my second choice would be to find a wealthy donor who instead of donating a huge sum of cash to fire someone, donates that cash to a really worthy cause. To feeding the hungry. To curing cancer. To wildlife conservation. To providing shelter to the homeless. To making the world a better place. Wealthy University of Virginia and Notre Dame alumni, where are you? If you have that kind of money to fire a coach, donate to Team in Training! It won’t help win a football game at Old “U” but it will help win a fight against blood cancers. What do you say? I know you are out there – call me!

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