Three days before the start of Texas A&M’s football season, the school announced a contract extension for coach Jimbo Fisher.
But perhaps the most notable part of the deal went unsaid.
By tacking on four fully-guaranteed years to Fisher’s already massive contract, Texas A&M immediately doubled the size of his buyout clause – which, according to USA TODAY Sports research, is the largest in the history of college football.
Fisher, 56, is making $7.5 million this year and would be owed about $95.6 million if he is fired without cause on Dec. 1. Prior to the extension, he would’ve been due $45.6 million.
No coach besides Fisher has ever had a buyout north of $50 million.
“Providing the appropriate amount of stability and continuity during this important time is critical as we support our football program at the highest level,” Aggies athletic director Ross Bjork said in a news release announcing Fisher’s extension.
USA TODAY Sports has been compiling and analyzing football coaching salaries on an annual basis since 2006. It began calculating the exact buyout figures for every public-school coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2017.
The rapid expansion of buyout clauses in recent years has come as no surprise, as it largely mirrors the increase in salaries. But it illustrates one of the key ways in which coaches are negotiating both financial security and job flexibility into their contracts.
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According to USA TODAY Sports research, more than two-thirds of public-school coaches in the Power Five would be owed an eight-figure buyout if they are fired on Dec. 1. Twelve coaches – including one at a Group of Five school – would be due $20 million or more.
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Some schools negotiate a settlement package with a fired coach that cuts the buyout. And some deals require coaches to look for a new job, with the income from such employment offsetting the amount owed. But many, including Fisher’s, do not.
His contract also has an added perk: Flexibility. While Fisher would be owed $95 million if Texas A&M fired him without cause, he could leave to take another job and not owe the school a dime. The three other coaches who have buyouts of more than $30 million this year – Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Ohio State’s Ryan Day – all have similar wiggle room in their deals, as well.
Texas A&M, of course, is sitting at 4-2 after knocking off No. 1 Alabama last weekend, making it highly unlikely that the school would look to fire Fisher. But his buyout clause likely provides an extra layer of security. It will not drop below $50 million until 2027.
Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher’s contract buyout largest in college history