Power 5 Finds Themselves in Another Contract Buyout

Texas A&M’s record $76 million contract buyout for fired football coach Jimbo Fisher accounts for more than half of the approximately $146 million Power 5 schools owe to fired head football coaches since the start of the 2022 season.[1] The previous record was set by Auburn’s 2020 buyout of football coach Gus Malzahn, which cost $21.7 million. According to an ESPN analysis of athletic department financial records and contracts, Power 5, and Group of 5 programs spent more than $533 million in dead money — owed to coaches who were fired without cause with time left on their contracts — in the 11-year period from Jan. 1, 2010, to Jan. 31, 2021.[2] 

            According to the terms of Fisher’s contract, Texas A&M will owe Fisher $19.2 million within 60 days and then pay him $7.2 million annually through 2031. There is no offset or mitigation on those payments, and the annual payments start 120 days after termination. The athletic director of Texas A&M, Ross Bjork, stated “we will use unrestricted contributions within the 12th Man Foundation for the first one-time payment and the athletic department will fund the annual payments for the remaining portion by growing our revenues and adjusting our annual operating budget accordingly.” Bjork also stated the program does not plan for this financial decision to impact the performance or culture of the program.

            Fisher was first named head football coach at Texas A&M in 2017, the University said he had agreed to a 10-year contract worth $75 million, adding no “state-appropriated funds” would be used toward his salary.[3] In 2021, Texas A&M extended Fisher’s contract for an additional four years through the 2031 season, giving him an annual salary of more than $9 million.[4] Fisher is 45-25 overall during his time with Texas A&M.

            This season, the Aggies are 7-4 overall and 4-3 in the Southeastern Conference, with one game remaining in the 2023 season, on the road against the LSU Tigers on November 25. The athletic director said while the timing is “not ideal,” he felt the team needed a shift in direction. “Our program is stuck in neutral, we should be relevant on the national scene, something is not clicking, something is not working and therefore, something had to give in order for Aggie football to reach our full potential,” Bjork said during a news conference. Assistant Elijah Robinson will be the teams interim head coach for its last 2 games of the season.

            Texas A&M’s average professor salary sits at around $102,000 per year. This means that essentially the University could hire 126 new professors with the money that they will be paying to Jimbo Fisher over the next 8 years.[5] Texas A&M annual tuition for instate is around $11,550 per year which leads to $46,200 for 4 years. The University with the money for Jimbo Fisher could provide over 1,600 full ride scholarships to students in need.[6] In all, the money that Fisher alone will be receiving is a significant amount and could’ve been used to better the future of the students or the University.

[1] https://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/38892799/money-owed-fired-power-5-football-coaches-2022-climbs-146-million-jimbo-fisher-buyout

[2] Id.

[3] https://www.cnn.com/2023/11/13/sport/jimbo-fisher-record-buyout-texas-am-spt-intl/index.html

[4] Id.

[5] https://www.texasmonthly.com/arts-entertainment/better-ways-to-spend-jimbo-fisher-buyout-money/

[6] Id.

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