In his first three years at Colorado State, Mike Bobo was nothing if not consistent.
Hired away from Georgia to take over for Florida-bound Jim McElwain, Bobo inherited a 10-3 Colorado State team and went 7-5 in the 2015 regular season, 5-3 in Mountain West play, with a December bowl loss.
In 2016, he went 7-5 in the regular season, 5-3 in Mountain West play, with a December bowl loss.
In 2017, he went 7-5 in the regular season, 5-3 in Mountain West play, with a December bowl loss.
The pattern finally broke in 2018, but in the wrong direction. The Rams went 3-9 on the year, and as of this writing Colorado State sits at 1-3 on the season with an 8-game losing streak to FBS competition.
Bobo's original contract, signed Dec. 23, 2014, paid him $1.75 million in 2019, the final year of the 5-year deal, which would have allowed Colorado State to simply walk after this season. But no college football coach has worked under an expiring contract since, well, the invention of the contract, and so he signed an extension effective Jan. 1, 2018, after the third of his three straight 7-6 campaigns.
That extension lifted his 2018 salary from $1.65 million to $1.8 million, his scheduled 2019 salary of $1.75 million to $1.9 million, and rose $100,000 a year from there, to $2.2 million in 2022. (More on this in a moment.)
It also significantly increased his buyout.
It's interesting, to use a neutral word, that Colorado State AD Joe Parker tied himself to Bobo to the tune of an $8 million buyout after three straight 7-6 seasons, when the program was coming off a 10-3 season upon his hiring.
But more interesting than the dollar amounts is the timing.
If, hypothetically speaking, Colorado State elects to move on from Bobo after this season, that decision would be made at or near the end of the regular season, which happens on Nov. 29. The Rams would announce Bobo's removal as soon as possible once the decision was made, so as to recruit and hire the next Colorado State head coach as soon as possible.
This has always been how business is done in college football, but especially so since the 2017 passage of the December signing period. It doesn't make sense for anyone involved for a lame-duck staff to sign the next crop of recruits. In fact, take it a step farther -- it's unethical to sign 20-or-so players knowing the head coach who signed them will be gone within two weeks.
At the same time... it's a $2.5 million difference between firing Bobo on Dec. 1 and Jan. 1. That's a lot of money. As unethical it would be to temporarily retain a head coach to save $2.5 million, it would be just as fiscally irresponsible to pay Bobo $5.5 million on Dec. 1 when the school could pay him $3 million on Jan. 1.
Colorado State generated $54.7 million in 2017-18 (the most recent year on record) but nearly half of that was allocated from the university, according to USA Today. The Rams would have to scrounge through a lot of couch cushions to find an extra $2.5 million lying around.
More likely, it would require Parker finding a booster motivated enough to cover the extra $2.5 million to get it done on the proper schedule, or for him to set Colorado State's lawyers to work on a plan to effectively fire Bobo on or around Dec. 1 but not officially do the deed until Jan. 1.
Or maybe there's a third option.
After his 2018 extension, followed up by Colorado State's 3-9 '18 season, Bobo amended his contract to negotiate less money for himself. Seriously, on Dec. 21, 2018, Bobo signed an amendment that adjusted his 2019 salary from $1.9 million to $1.8 million. See figure 1 and figure 2 below.
If Colorado State's season does not make a U-turn and the school elects to move on, perhaps the CSU camp and the Bobo camp get together after Thanksgiving weekend and negotiate a settlement between $3-$5.5 million that doesn't put both sides in an incredibly awkward situation for the sake of a couple million dollars.