Nick Saban got an offseason raise so big it basically makes him the unofficial governor of Alabama and Jimbo Fisher has a blank national championship plaque that Texas A&M has pushed all-in for. But what happens if either coach fails for some reason or another? Is it even worth firing them?
Given the climate in college football, where school buyouts are almost more important than overall record, it’s honestly hard to say. Just know that both Saban and Fisher are in elite company because they are two of five coaches in the country with a buyout of over $30 million.
That’s not an error. As of December 1, according to a handy and fascinating USA Today database, Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M), Urban Meyer (Ohio State), Dabo Swinney (Clemson), Nick Saban (Alabama) and Gus Malzahn (Auburn) would all be paid over $30 million if they got fired for whatever reason.
For a multitude of reasons, this list makes sense. Every coach, except for Malzahn, has won a national championship and coached a Heisman Trophy winner, and each program has a tradition of success and expectations to be in the top tier of college football. It’s hard to imagine any of them getting fired, but let’s play the “What If?” game for just a moment.
What happens if Fisher falls flat in College Station, Texas like many others before him have? What if the allegations against Meyer were so bad that OSU was forced to fire him this offseason? What if Swinney cannot sustain success in Death Valley? What if Saban loses the locker room and has a stretch of losing seasons? What if Malzahn is incapable of fixing the Tigers’ offense?
If those ever came true, this is what they would be owed:
- Jimbo Fisher — $68,125,000
- Urban Meyer — $38,058,402
- Dabo Swinney — $35,000,000
- Nick Saban — $33,600,000
- Gus Malzahn — $32,143,750
Goodness, that’s a ton of money, and it’s only if they get fired, which is the most insane part. Kirby Smart (Georgia), Chris Petersen (Washington), Scott Frost (Nebraska), Kirk Ferentz (Iowa), Willie Taggart (Florida State), Jeff Brohm (Purdue), and Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma) all have buyouts of over $20 million, too.
Unless the Top 5 does something so incredibly drastic, it’s safe to assume they won’t be going anywhere. However, there are some contracts with $10-15 million buyouts that will definitely make university’s wonder if it’s even worth firing their coach with such a big price tag.
College football is a big business, for sure, and it doesn’t get much bigger than a coach having a $30-million protection policy.