Normally, the way contract extensions work is that the school gives its head coach more money in exchange for a greater commitment to the school. The salary goes up, as does the buyout penalty in the event the coach leaves for another job.
Not so at Memphis.
Mike Norvell’s original contract, signed Dec. 4, 2015 and lasting through Dec. 31, 2020, called for a $500,000 buyout on his end.
After a 9-2 regular season in 2017, in which he led the Tigers to an American West championship, within a breath of upsetting undefeated UCF in the American Championship, and fielded interest from Arkansas, Norvell netted a major extension from Memphis: a 5-year, $13 million extension that made him, just 36 years old at the time, the highest-paid Group of 5 coach in college football. Norvell’s $2.6 million 2018 salary placed him 48th nationally, not only tops among the Group of 5 but ahead of Power 5 names like Oregon’s Mario Cristobal and Missouri’s Barry Odom.
He was extended again after another West Division championship in 2018 and yet, according to the Daily Memphian, his buyout remains unchanged at $500,000.
This means, yes, a 37-year-old coach with a track record of producing great offenses and a 29-14 record as a head coach can be bought out of his contract for a bargain basement price of half a million bucks.
That’s the easy part, though. To get Norvell, a hypothetical athletics director would have to actually convince Norvell to leave, and so far no one’s done that.
“I tell people all the time I’ve got one of the best jobs in the United States of America. I’m in a place that I love to live, I love to represent this university and be a part of this city,” Norvell said earlier this year. “I enjoy coming to work every single day.”