The Rosster: The contract
On Sept. 2, 2010, Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz signed a contract with the University of Iowa, effectively making him the football coach until 2020. Two hundred forty days removed from a 24-14 win over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, Ferentz signed a piece of paper that pays him between $3.5 million and $4 million a year, making him the fifth-highest paid college football coach in the country, only behind Nick Saban, Mack Brown, Bob Stoops, and Urban Meyer — each of whom have won a national championship at one point in their careers.
On July 8, Sports Illustrated college football writer Stewart Mandel wrote a piece outlining the 10 best and five worst coaches in the college game. Not in any particular order, Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz landed in the bottom five, with Mandel writing: “The 2009 Orange Bowl proved an aberration in Ferentz’s otherwise unimpressive recent tenure. Take away that one 11-2 season, and the Hawkeyes are 47-41 since 2005 under their $3.6 million-per-year coach.”
And while that may seem like a recipe for disaster for the person in charge of hiring Ferentz — a high salary and not many wins to back it up — Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said he was able to scoff at this assessment of Ferentz, although he did admit some criticism directed towards the program could be seen as warranted.
“We have a great leader in Kirk, despite the idiocy that I read this summer, which I shake my head and laugh about,” Barta told The Daily Iowan at Big Ten media days in Chicago on July 24.
“What’s fair is we were 4-8 last year. When you’re 4-8 or not successful in any sport, it’s fair to criticize me, it’s fair to criticize the coach, and it’s fair to criticize the program.”
While we could debate the merits of Mandel’s argument until a time when America no longer needs farmers, he addressed a subject in his brief statement that has had what seems like everyone talking this off-season: Kirk Ferentz’s contract and his buyout clause.
The clause stipulates that if Ferentz is fired without cause by the university prior to Jan. 31, 2020, he will continue to get paid 75 percent of his remaining contract in monthly installments by the school. That means if he were to get fired today, Ferentz would get paid a little under a quarter of a million dollars each month to not coach until the beginning of 2020.
That’s pretty ridiculous, right? The fifth-highest paid coach in the country — who has never won a title, let alone a Rose Bowl — will continue to get paid about $3 million a year by the school even if he is terminated and technically no longer an employee of the university. Maybe not.
Blake Baratz, the president of the Institute for Athletes, — a full-service sports representation firm located in Minneapolis — said that nothing stuck out to him after reading over Ferentz’s arrangement with the university, and it was even comparable to terms of other coaches in the college game, the only difference being the amount of pull power Ferentz has with not just the UI but the entire state of Iowa.
“They’re all very similar,” Baratz said about the contracts among high-profile coaches. “They all have bonuses for AP (top-25) finishes and championships — the money is all pretty similar. It’s like any other negotiation; Ferentz has the maximum amount of leverage. Nothing he has in there is out of the ordinary.
“It becomes that high when you’re the figurehead for the institution or the entire state. [Iowa] doesn’t have an NFL team — ever since that program turned, he’s made everyone money. Everyone has been able to function because what he has built, so his buyout is more substantial than other coaches. It would take a cause to get him fired.”
This past season showed that it may take more than just a few (a lot) of losses to be cause for termination. But even if Ferentz were to leave the program before his contract is up, whether by termination or any other reason, Baratz speculated that he may not need to look too far to find other employment.
“If he wanted more money he could probably get it,” Baratz said. “He could probably be Governor tomorrow if he wanted to. I think it’s a fair deal — if he was greedy, he could probably get more.”
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