Yesterday we took a look at Matt Campbell’s buyout at Iowa State, which, despite the thoughts of one prominent analyst, figures to be prohibitively high for a coach in his first year at Iowa State, one that could very well be 5-5 in three weeks.
But there is another coach out there that has a stronger track record than Campbell and may be more attainable — well, perhaps less unattainable.
Justin Fuente, 41, turned around a completely destitute Memphis program in the early part of this decade. The Tigers went 3-21 in two seasons under Larry Porter, and then 7-17 in Fuente’s first two seasons. But Memphis exploded on the national scene thereafter, posting a 10-3 mark in 2014 and 9-3 in 2015. At one point Fuente strung together a 15-game winning streak which saw Memphis rise to No. 15 in the AP poll.
That success catapulted Fuente to Virginia Tech, where he has immediately improved a program that had plateaued under Frank Beamer. After going just 29-23 in Beamer’s final four seasons, Fuente elevated Virginia Tech to a 10-4 mark and an appearance in the ACC Championship last fall, and this season has been even better: a 6-1 start and a No. 13 ranking with a neutral site victory over No. 22 West Virginia and only a loss to No. 7 Clemson. A Nov. 4 visit to No. 8 Miami is all that stands between Fuente and two Coastal Division championships in two seasons.
“All right,” you say. “I’m sold. What’s it going to take to get him.”
Fuente’s price tag is $6 million — or $5 million if you can hold off until Dec. 15, which seems almost as difficult as convincing your president and your boosters to fork over $6 million just to get the privilege of paying he and his staff $10 million to coach your team.
From his contract:
We went over Jim McElwain’s buyout yesterday, when Florida only — “only” — paid $3 million out-of-pocket to cover his $7.5 million buyout at Colorado State.
But what of some other recent buyouts?
- Tom Herman at Houston: $2.5 million
- Willie Taggart at South Florida: $1.7 million
- Chris Petersen at Boise State: $750,000
- P.J. Fleck at Western Michigan: $600,000
There is a difference here, of course. Each of those coaches were hired away from Group of 5 jobs, and Virginia Tech is a Power 5 school. We have some precedent to study here, too.
- Paul Chryst at Pittsburgh: $3.28 million
- Gary Andersen at Wisconsin: $3 million
- James Franklin at Vanderbilt: $1.5 million
- Steve Sarkisian at Washington: $1.5 million
- Bret Bielema at Wisconsin: $1 million
- Mike Riley at Oregon State: $500,000
Fuente’s buyout tops the highest recent buyout on record by close to 45 percent, and when it drops by $1 million on Dec. 15 it’s still almost $1.7 million ahead of the record-breaking buyout.
Sure, Fuente’s ransom falls to a digestible $3 million on Dec. 16, 2018, but, as long as he keeps winning at this rate, Virginia Tech will give him a new contract before then and the calendar will start all over again.