We have a look at Major Applewhite’s first contract as Houston’s first head coach thanks to the Houston Chronicle‘s Joseph Duarte, and the end result is one of the most school-friendly contracts we’ve ever seen.
It’s a 5-year deal that pays Applewhite $1.5 million per year with a $100,000 bonus for every Cougars win past No. 9 each season, plus a $100,000 bonus for an American Athletic Conference championship, a $100,000 bonus for a New Year’s Six bowl appearance and up to $317,500 in bonuses for academic success, coaching awards and other items.
But where Applewhite’s deal differs from others we’ve seen are in the buyout terms.
If Houston were to fire Applewhite, the school would owe him the base salary — $650,000 — for each year remaining on the deal. But if Applewhite were to leave, he would owe the full $1.5 million — that’s his base salary plus “non-salary compensation” — for every year remaining on the deal plus any buyouts owed to assistant coaches not retained by the new head coach.
For instance, defensive coordinator Mark D’Onforio signed a 3-year, $400,000 a year contract that calls for a buyout rate at 50 percent of his base salary. So if Applewhite leaves after the 2017 season, he would owe $6 million plus $400,000 (half of D’Onforio’s base salary times two) and buyouts for any other assistants’ contracts we don’t have our hands on.
But wait, there’s more! Applewhite’s personal buyout spikes by 50 percent if he leaves for another school in Texas. This means it’s theoretically possible Applewhite could leave after this season and wind up owing $9 million plus his assistants’ buyouts on a contract that only — “only” — paid him $7.5 million in the first place.
This is an example of Houston taking its frustration and hurt feelings of watching Art Briles, Kevin Sumlin and Tom Herman leaving for its former Southwest Conference rivals-turned-Power 5 neighbors out on its first-time head coach. A first-time head coach who, to be fair, did not have any other head coaching options available to him at the time.
— FootballScoop Staff (@FootballScoop) February 22, 2017
Still, it will be interesting to see if this contract will influence any future deals, specifically the provision of making a head coach responsible for paying his assistants’ buyouts.
For years now, coaches and their agents have gone on a Georgia Tech over Cumberland-like streak against schools at the negotiating table. Houston’s deal with Major Applewhite counts as a touchdown for Cumberland.