Early this month, West Virginia University Athletic Director Oliver Luck announced a new 6-year contract for Coach Dana Holgorsen.
The terms of the deal will pay Coach Holgorsen a base salary of $2.3 million this season. The contract calls for Holgorsen to earn $2.5 million in 2013, $2.7 million in 2014, $2.8 million in 2015, $2.9 million in 2016 and 2017.
The contract also provides for performance based incentives that include team academic achievement, wins, conference titles, and bowl appearances.
“When the University commits what they’ve committed to me and vice versa, then it’s positive,” said Holgorsen. “You know, assistant coaches are going to view this as capability and they’re gonna want to be here and players are going to view this as stability and want to be here and it’s gonna help in recruiting, gonna help in support and ticket sales and all the rest.”
What Coach Holgorsen did not mention in his quote is that his contract extension signals that the West Virginia football has stability at the top. For the next six seasons, the Mountaineers will have one of the best offensive minds in the game at the helm. This move makes a clear statement that West Virginia is committed to playing for Big XII Championships and National Championships. Or does it?
The one aspect of the deal that gives some cause for concern is the relatively low buyout clause of $2 million. With television revenue driving football strategy across the country, teams will do anything possible to secure their future, especially at the expense of other institutions. West Virginia has first-hand experience with coach poaching, losing Rich Rodriguez to Michigan. The Rodriguez buyout was set at $4 million.
While there does not appear to be any reason for Coach Holgorsen to want to leave the Mountaineers, the low buyout clause should give WVU fans a pause for concern. If a program of higher national profile, like Southern California or Florida come calling, the $2 million buyout clause will be but a minor service fee. If the Mountaineers want to make a major statement to the nation, that West Virginia football is committed to becoming a perennial national championship contender, then Oliver Luck needs to work out another contract extension with Coach Holgorsen that will feature a much stiffer buyout clause.
Oliver Luck needs to look at this as a financial decision. Coach Holgorsen’s style of play is exciting and will fill the stadium for years to come. His offense also makes for good television, which is really what college football is all about now. By negotiating a larger buyout clause with Coach Holgorsen, West Virginia would protect their most valuable asset and secure their financial future.