Hot Reads: Should Losing Be a Fireable Offense?
Photo Credit: Aaron Doster - USA TODAY Sports

Hot Reads: Should Losing Be a Fireable Offense?

December 07, 2017

To be honest, I’m getting a little wistful. For the Carousel. It’s slowing down. People are hopping off. The fun's almost over. It's almost time to grab a funnel cake and then head home. Oregon might yet send another Power 5 program scrambling, but we keep working our way down the chain. The big moves are probably done.

Arkansas has all of its pieces in place. It hired former SMU coach Chad Morris, which is intriguing. Morris has a 14-22 record over three seasons, but he broke into the college ranks as a successful Texas high school football coach, parlaying that into offensive coordinator stints at Tulsa and Clemson. The Razorbacks are better when they’re full of Texas talent, and Morris has a pretty good reputation and connections in the Lone Star State.

Arkansas also has an athletic director now. It hired former Houston AD Hunter Yurachek. I wouldn’t normally take note of that, but there was one item of note from his introductory press conference. After citing Kevin Sumlin’s buyout at Texas A&M as an example – Sumlin is owed the remainder of his contract ($10m) in one payment 60 days after firing – Yurachek said this:

“We’ve got to get a handle on coach contracts and the buyouts,” Yurachek said. “To me, losing football games is being terminated with cause. The protection sometimes that coaches are provided within their contracts to me is ludicrous. I want to be a leader in this industry in how we write our coaches contracts moving forward so that there’s not 100 percent guaranteed protection for their contracts.”

Not surprising that an AD feels that way, but, man, that’s a lot of horses spread throughout the country to try and get back in one barn, and there’s an army of agents who would be fighting Yurachek every step of the way. But it is an interesting theoretical discussion.

Why are most coaches fired? Because they don’t win, of course. In fact, if a coach is winning he can make quite a few mistakes that would otherwise be fireable offenses and still keep his job. Jim McElwain’s alleged death threats fiasco presented a contemporary test case. Florida saw a “with cause” opening and jumped on it within a week.

That’s the sort of environment that has been created by massive contracts with iron-clad protection all driven by an ever-escalating market place. Should losing be considered “with cause?” Given the volatility of this particular profession, coaches have to have some sort of protection but maybe there’s a better balance to be struck.

That said, coaches have all the leverage. Fans want their teams to win, and don’t really seem to care all that much about what it costs. Just find someone who just wins, baby. And when buyout clauses are basically bargaining chips it puts athletic departments in a tough spot. Fans want to see a commitment to winning, and schools can show that commitment by paying top dollar for the best coaches, which requires competitive salaries and incentives and on and on we go.

I’ll give credit to Yurachek for at least trying to tap the brakes on what looks like a runaway truck. I don’t know if there’s any slowing it down at this point, but I wish him luck on his quest.

(Should note here that Morris doesn’t have a fully-guaranteed buyout at Arkansas. It’s only 70 percent of the remaining money owed.)

The Grab Bag

  • We've seen this fall apart before, but Tennessee is close to hiring Alabama DC Jeremy Pruitt.
  • Tom Schad and Steve Berkowitz of USA Today explore assitant coach buyouts, including what Nebraska owes Mike Riley's staff.
  • Will Mike Leach spend the rest of his career as an outsider? (Personally, this sounds like the ideal coaching career.)
  • ICYMI: If you need a place to keep track of all of Nebraska's scholarship offers under the new staff, we'll be updating this post regularly.

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