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Oh Aggy, Part Deux

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The cost of wanting to be the best? Texas A&M's buyout total for recently fired coaches is a starting point

 

 

By Ben Baby, Staff Writer Contact Ben Babyon Twitter:@Ben_Baby

COLLEGE STATION --Three team NCAA national championships. Five individual titles. A Hall of Fame induction.

After 22 years as the women's golf coach at Southern Cal, Andrea Gaston had won the honors and accolades that college coaches dream about at the beginning of their careers.

It all led to a career distinction that didn't come with a trophy or plaque. Another school came calling, wanting to hire her.

"How many women really get recruited to another position because of what they accomplished?" said Gaston, who was officially hired by Texas A&M last June. "It's like a circus with football. You see coaches moving around all the time. But in a sport like golf, you don't see it very often."

A&M isn't known for being stingy when it comes to paying coaches. That includes clearing out underperforming coaches to make way for new ones.

Since November 2017, A&M has fired three head coaches. At the time of their dismissals, A&M collectively owed them roughly $14.4 million, according to buyout terms and contract figures obtained through open-records requests.

That amount is on top of any payments for incoming and outgoing assistants. The buyout total is more than five of the state's eight Football Bowl Subdivision schools spent on combined coaching salaries during 2017-18.

The total might be steep, but it's the cost of doing business for a program striving to be the best in the country.

"You have to compete with the best of the best," former A&M athletic director Scott Woodward told The Dallas Morning News in late March. "To me, it's almost like a given. It's almost like an active expectation."

Three of Woodward's hires over the last 18 months have made waves in their respective sports. It's the main reason Woodward's sudden departure to take the same position at LSU caused heartache among the Aggie fan base. LSU announced Woodward's hire on Thursday morning.

At the end of 2017, Woodward hired Florida State's Jimbo Fisher, one of three active coaches to win a football national title this decade. On April 3, A&M hired Virginia Tech's Buzz Williams, who has made four trips to the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Sandwiched in the middle is Gaston, who has the top pound-for-pound résumé of the trio.

All three commanded big salaries to make the move. Fisher was given a 10-year, $75 million guaranteed contract, the richest ever for a college football coach. Williams will earn more than $24.3 million in base salary over the next six years.

Gaston's contract is no different. She is set to earn $300,000 annually in base salary on a deal that expires June 30, 2023, according to her contract.

Gaston's salary is higher than what the top football assistants at UT-San Antonio, North Texas, UT-El Paso and Texas State made in 2018, according to figures from USA Today. A&M's previous women's golf coach, Trelle McCombs, made $160,000 a year.

When A&M informed McCombs of her dismissal last May, the Aggies still owed her nearly $480,000 for the final 36 months of her contract. In March, A&M axed Billy Kennedy with $3.5 million remaining on his contract. Those figures would be offset by earnings from future employers.

In eight seasons, Kennedy became the lone A&M coach to lead the men's basketball program to two Sweet 16 appearances. But in Kennedy's other six seasons, the Aggies missed the tournament, prompting his dismissal in March.

"Billy's such a class guy," Woodward said. "These things are hard to do. But we saw a lot of things we didn't like. We were headed in the wrong direction. Obviously our attendance was down, and it bothered us."

The Aggies were last in the SEC in every major attendance category. The number of scanned tickets for nine conference games represented an arena capacity of 36.1%, according to data obtained through an open-records request.

While three of the coaches fired recently enjoyed moderate success, they failed to live up to the expectations of Woodward and the fan base. Then there's the money.

Over the last three school years, A&M has reported more than $618 million in operating revenue. It's one of the reasons A&M has been able to spend so much on severance, including for Kevin Sumlin.

The former football coach was owed the balance of his contract within 60 days of his termination. Of the $10.4 million left on his deal, A&M paid Sumlin roughly $9.9 million of that shortly after his final day in January 2018.

Those kind of resources elevate expectations.

When Gaston first toured A&M, she saw the financial commitment around campus and was surprised at the lack of national championships.

"I just thought that with these facilities, there should be a lot more," Gaston said. "It seems like with that investment being made, they're going to be giving coaches -- and obviously student-athletes that choose to come here -- a better opportunity to succeed."

Aside from the women's basketball NCAA title in 2011, the Aggies have struggled to be nationally relevant in major sports. The Aggies haven't won a football conference championship since 1998, back when New Orleans Saints assistant coach Dan Campbell wore maroon and white. During a return trip to campus last week, Campbell said that was hard to believe.

"I'm hoping that doesn't stand much longer," Campbell said. "I really am. I have a lot of pride for this school. I get tired of getting heckled at times if we lose to somebody, because everybody down there [in New Orleans] is SEC country."

A&M's next athletic director will inherit that challenge. The new hire will also know that A&M's boosters and administration are willing to spend money to bring championships to College Station.

It takes money to make changes

Since Nov. 2017, Texas A&M has been on the hook for more than $14 million in buyout money. Here's a look at how much each coach was owed before any mitigation from future employers.

Coach Sport Buyout owed*
Kevin Sumlin Football $10,416,650
Billy Kennedy Men's basketball $3,500,000
Trelle McCombs Women's golf $479,998

*Note: This is at the time a firing was first reported or announced. Only Sumlin had a guaranteed buyout.

 

 

 

https://sportsday.dallasnews.com/college-sports/texasamaggies/2019/04/19/cost-wanting-best-texas-ams-buyout-total-recently-fired-coaches-starting-point?f=r

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Bjork, though, endured an up-and-down tenure in Oxford, Mississippi. While Ole Miss' football program rose to national prominence by going 19-7 over the 2014 and 2015 seasons, the Rebels would later have to vacate 33 football wins over six seasons between 2010 and 2016 for fielding ineligible players.

 

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Aggies cheat and still can't win. That has to be the ultimate definition of a loser. Lol

According to the NCAA, the schools with the most number of major infractions cases:

SMU, 10

Arizona State, 9

Oklahoma, 8

Wichita State, 8

Auburn, 7

Florida State, 7

Texas A&M, 7

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On 5/24/2019 at 6:58 PM, 63_Texas_1 said:

Aggies cheat and still can't win. That has to be the ultimate definition of a loser. Lol

According to the NCAA, the schools with the most number of major infractions cases:

SMU, 10

Arizona State, 9

Oklahoma, 8

Wichita State, 8

Auburn, 7

Florida State, 7

Texas A&M, 7

aggy's stock response is, "Everybody cheats, including holier-than-thou tu."

My retort? "So you're saying only the brazenly incompetent or stupid get caught?"

 

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