- Mike Fish
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Established college football coaches often don't go gently into the good night of dismissal. Not only have the big boys crossed the $2 million-a-season salary threshold, but their attorneys have learned how to structure their contracts so the university must pay through the roof if fickle boosters try running them off campus.
If he's fired, for example, Tommy Tuberville, who could lecture on the sins of booster involvement, would collect $7 million from Auburn.
Phillip Fulmer would get $4.325 million from Tennessee if the Vols send him packing.
Mack Brown would be due $3.5 million from Texas.
But the clear winner if the bottom falls out, according to ESPN.com's review of the contracts of the head coaches at most of the top public football-playing schools in the Top 25 this year, is Frank Beamer; he would be owed $8.032 million if Virginia Tech no longer wants his services.
When a change is made at the highest levels of college football, most of the public focus is on the new guy rather than the old guy's severance package. So it isn't rare to find schools bidding against one another for a hot coach and driving up his pay scale.
Case in point: Alabama's recent six-year, $12 million offer to Rich Rodriguez nearly doubled what West Virginia paid to retain him. Of course, Alabama knows a thing or two about the raiding of coaches, having lost Dennis Franchione to Texas A&M that way.
Franchione made upward of $2.5 million this season at A&M, where until recently there had been questions about his job security. According to his contract, A&M wrote a check for $1 million to cover his Alabama buyout. And in one of the more unusual clauses found in college deals, the university makes a "corporate payment" of $1.5 million annually to Fran Inc., a New Mexico corporation, for personal appearances, including "interviews and overall relationships with national and local media."
It pays to play nice with the media. But that isn't the only thing that pays.
At Ohio State, Jim Tressel is promised 10 hours of annual use of a private plane, plus a guarantee that he can fly private aircraft on his recruiting trips. Further, Tressel's contract spells out that his mode of transportation will be jet aircraft if the destination is more than 200 miles from Columbus.
At Oklahoma, Bob Stoops gets 35 hours of use of a private plane. And to commemorate his 10th anniversary at Oklahoma, Stoops can anticipate receiving a $3 million check on Dec. 31, 2008.
If he's still on the job for the 2012 season, Georgia coach Mark Richt will collect $2.4 million.
When his deal concludes after the 2007 season, Michigan's Lloyd Carr is assured of being elevated to a position as an associate athletic director.
Bill Callahan was fired by the Oakland Raiders and hired at Nebraska, which kicked in an annual $26,500 stipend from the Cook endowment for "distinguished chair as head football coach" as part of its lure to attract the unemployed coach.
And first-year Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema, a bachelor, gets the use of a car as well as the promise of a second set of wheels for his bride if he marries during his five-year deal. With the 36-year-old coach prepping full-time for the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Badgers officials probably aren't expecting to have to go car shopping anytime soon.
Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
College football coaches (and their lawyers) have learned how to make their schools pay to get rid of them.