One of the things that I've recently considered in light of the firing of Dan Spencer was how much latitude does an athletic director have in firing a head coach. I know that the general idea is that if the coach isn't winning then you fire the head coach. Boom. Unfortunately, I've never really thought it was that easy, and even now, I'm beginning to think that there are a few factors to consider in terminating a head coach. These are the factors that I've thought about, you'll probably think of more:
1. What is the overall record?
2. Is the program trending up or down?
3. What is the current value and how long is the term of the contract?
4. What is the current budget and is the athletic department operating at a profit or loss?
5. What is the cost for a new head coach?
6. Are there boosters who would be willing to buy out the contract?
7. If the answer to #6 is yes, will the same boosters be willing to contribute for the salary in hiring a new head coach?
That's enough for now, right?
This isn't about trying to lessen the idea that a head coach needs to be fired if the coach isn't winning, but I think that these factors (and probably more) are part of the process.
1. What is the overall record? This is the biggest consideration in my opinion for the discussion of whether or not to fire a coach. This part isn't rocket science. Not only should we look at the overall record for a coach, but also the record for that coach within a given season.
2. Is the program trending up or down? This is something that Hocutt mentioned when he fired Spencer and there was no doubt that over the course of Spencer's tenure that his team finished 7th, 5th, 7th, and 10th over the course of his four year stint as head coach. There is no doubt that the program was trending downward. But you could also look at first year volleyball coach Don Flora and see that his overall record is abysmal, especially in conference, but it was his first year. The year before, the volleyball team did not win a single conference game. The improvement is incremental, but Flora showed improvement during his first year.
Women's basketball coach Kristy Curry is also a topic of discussion and here are her records from the date she was hired:
2006-07 15-16 (6-10)
2007-08 17-16 (4-12)
2008-09 16-15 (6-10)
2009-10 18-15 (5-11)
2010-11 22-11 (8-8)
2011-12 21-14 (6-12)
This is improvement, even if incremental, for the first four years, with an obvious step back in 2011-12. Curry's contract was signed after the 2010-11 season, an NCAA appearance, and from the way things looked, Curry had the program trending up rather than down. So far, Hocutt is pretty consistent in how he looks at things and I think that's a good thing.
3. What is the current value and how long is the term of the contract? This is a huge factor and for me, may be the biggest factor as to why a coach is retained rather than fired. You may not feel that it is appropriate for this to be part of the equation, but it has to be part of the equation. We're going to take Tuberville as an example. His current contract is through 2015 at $1.75 million per season. Thus, the current value of the contract is $7 million. And yes. I know that Texas Tech has sovereign immunity, but remember . . . we want our school to pay its coaches and thus far under Hocutt's administration, he's taken care of Glasgow and would assume that he's honored Spencer's final year on his contract. We all see the gigantic pink elephant in the room.
4. What is the current budget and is the athletic department operating at a profit or loss? So Tuberville's contract, should they terminate him right now, would be an immediate $7 million hit on the athletic department and here is what we know about the finances of the athletic department, in very simple terms, because I'm a simple guy. According to the recent USA Today numbers regarding income and expenses. The total revenue for the 2011 year was $59,534,895 and the total expenses was $56,970,651, for a total profit of $2,564,244. More than likely, the Texas Tech athletic department will remain pretty constant and it has over the past few years, continually being marginally profitable. And being marginally profitable is a good thing and isn't something that I'm dismissing. It's really important not to get into debt. Just ask TAMU and Byrne. In any event, at the most, you might expect a profit in that range for the next few years and that would be fine, but the minute you fire Tuberville, you owe him $7 million dollars as of today. If you let the season run out 2012, then it is $5.25 million.
More after the jump.
5. What is the cost for a new head coach? Now, you need to add the cost of hiring a new head coach and just let's say, due to inflation, that you give this new head coach a $2 million salary. Now, the actual amount of firing Tuberville at the end of the 2012 season would be $7.25 million.
Texas Tech doesn't have that kind of scratch, so the question is if there is an out.
And with football, attendance is a huge consideration and obviously, the football attendance funds almost the entirety of the athletic department. Without football, there really are no other sports because almost every other sport operates at a loss, the exceptions being women's basketball and men's basketball.
The thought here is that depending on the situation, if there is a coaching change, then there may be a boost in season ticket sales, so that might pay for some of the new head coach, but even then, I don't think the possible bump in season tickets would outweigh the cost ($7.25 million) of firing the old head coach and hiring a new head coach. The other side of that would be to retain a head coach that is losing and then season tickets and ticket revenue decrease dramatically, and the athletic department has an entirely new situation on their hands.
If I'm looking at this from an outsider, you have to consider those wins and losses and you have to consider the overall budget and if you can afford to make that call.
If an athletic director has no outside help (see below) then I liken this to buying a house and then a year later having buyer's remorse. It would be difficult to flip that house after just a year and most likely you have 30 year mortgage on this house. If you did sell it, you might be upside down on the first mortgage and then you have the prospect of having to buy a new house with possibly even a bigger mortgage. In theory, it sounds simple, but practically, it's not that easy.
I also understand the Bill Parcells concept of, "just show me the baby." All he cared about was results, he didn't care about the details. That's fine, but there are significant factors at play here that you just can't ignore or pretend that they don't exist, unless of course you like putting the athletic department $5 million in debt.
Unless . . .
6. Are there boosters who would be willing to buy out the contract? 7. If the answer to #6 is yes, will the same boosters be willing to contribute for the salary in hiring a new head coach? This is the wildcard and this is what can save an athletic department. We'll call this hypothetical booster, Big Jim Jack (BJJ and yes, I realize that this is funny, but is a reference to a Ticket 1310 bit), but let's just assume that the football season has another bad season and BJJ decides to call Hocutt and voice his displeasure. Hocutt hears out BJJ and says to BJJ, you can do something about it if you want, but right now, in order for the athletic department to be fiscally responsible, we're going to have to stick with the current program. BJJ hangs up the phone, calls a couple of his friends and they come up with a donation in the amount of the buyout, but tells Hocutt that the school will have to pay the salary of the new head coach. Hocutt looks at the figures and decides that this is at the very least doable based on the fact that paying for a new head coach at $2 million is much easier than paying $7 million to fire the old head coach and then hiring a new head coach.
Here's the problem. The problem is that in order to receive that donation of $5 million, BJJ most likely gets final approval on the new head coach and wants to be in on the interview process or essentially gets to pick the head coach. I don't know, but from talking to my uncles, who are all Aggies, this is how things went down at Texas A&M with Mike Sherman. There were BJJ's that wanted Sherman gone and wanted to hire Sumlin. Done. So now you are giving up really the decision making process that you, as an athletic director, have worked so hard to acquire in your profession. There are times that the BJJ is completely reasonable and may be on the same page, but there are other times where you may not. That's incredibly problematic. Plus, you run the risk of the head coaching candidate to turn down the job. It could happen and then you have to move on to a less desirable option.
So let’s take Dan Spencer's situation and answer the questions:
1. What is the overall record? For Spencer it was 115-112 (44-61), which is just about as mediocre as you can get and a bad conference record.
2. Is the program trending up or down? As mentioned above, Texas Tech finished 7th, 5th, 7th, and 10th in his four years at Texas Tech. Trending down.
3. What is the current value and how long is the term of the contract? I believe that Spencer had one additional year. I don't know his salary, but buying out one additional year isn't that big of a deal for a program that has underperformed.
4. What is the current budget and is the athletic department operating at a profit or loss? The budget is healthy. The baseball team drew in a ton of people this year for attendance, I think 21st in the nation. Perhaps some of that could help with the buyout, but isn't really needed for what you would think would be the relative low cost of buying out the final year of a baseball coach.
5. What is the cost for a new head coach? Again, this is a unique situation if Tadlock gets the job. He may get a raise and Tadlock may hire a high-priced pitching coach, but that may not be that big of a deal.
6. Are there boosters who would be willing to buy out the contract? Not applicable.
7. If the answer to #6 is yes, will the same boosters be willing to contribute for the salary in hiring a new head coach? Not applicable.
What about Kristy Curry:
1. What is the overall record? Mentioned above, was improving slowly, but took a turn last year.
2. Is the program trending up or down? Overall, it was trending up rather than trending down and it depends if last year was an aberration.
3. What is the current value and how long is the term of the contract? This was Hocutt's first contract extension (I think) and Curry has four years remaining on her contract. I think that there was maybe word that Curry was flirting a bit with LSU after the year so I'm sure that the thinking was that Hocutt wanted to lock her up for five years. When Curry was hired, her annual salary was $600,000 in her final year, so you would imagine that Hocutt would have given her a slight raise, but let's just assume that it is $600,000 for the next four years, that's $2.4 million if she were fired right now.
4. What is the current budget and is the athletic department operating at a profit or loss? Mentioned above, if Hocutt were to fire Curry there would be no profit for at least one year and maybe more.
5. What is the cost for a new head coach? Assuming that $600,000 is the baseline for a new coach's salary, the cost for a new coach is $3.0 million, which includes Curry's buyout plus the first year of the new head coach.
6. Are there boosters who would be willing to buy out the contract? This is tough, I don't really know if there are necessarily women's basketball boosters or if they are all the same. That's a pretty big hit to take for an individual to fire a coach, any coach, so I'd say no.
7. If the answer to #6 is yes, will the same boosters be willing to contribute for the salary in hiring a new head coach? Not applicable in my opinion.
Like I said, there are probably other factors that I'm not considering and maybe I'm over-thinking all of this or not thinking through it enough. I've long thought that Tuberville had to win 7 games in 2012 to keep his job, but now, I'm not so sure. I think he needs to win 7 games, that the athletic department has to continue to be profitable, and there has to be a booster willing to pay for a large portion or all of Tuberville's buyout. Then yes, I would agree that if Tuberville doesn't win 7 games, then Tuberville is fired. But that's a lot of "ifs".