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College Football's "Dead Money": Why Fired Coaches Keep Getting Paid

ByAndrew Pistone

2 min read

College Football's "Dead Money": Why Fired Coaches Keep Getting Paid

We’re at the point in the college football calendar where teams are assessing whether they’d like to stand pat heading into 2022, or shake things up.

The University of Miami fired head coach Manny Diaz earlier this week, and will move in a different direction next season. However, Diaz will still make a pretty penny financially, even if he doesn’t land on his feet at another program.

The school will need to pay him over half of his remaining contract value, which was set to expire in 2023, if he doesn’t get hired elsewhere.

The concept of “dead money” - paying a portion or full remainder of a fired or departed employee’s contract - is pretty pervasive in major college sports. A study done by ESPN.com revealed that over $533 million was paid out to fired coaches in the last 11 years, from January 1, 2010 through January 31, 2021.

College football payouts accounted for 75-percent of that figure, while the vast majority of the rest was comprised of payments made to men’s and women’s college basketball coaches who were relieved of their duties.

RELATED ARTICLE: Who Is The Highest-Paid Coach College Sports?

As one might imagine, the amount of money being doled out to coaches who are not employed by a school has been a source of consternation.

“Institutions threw away more than half a billion dollars…on richly-compensated coaches, instead of using the money to support the education, health and safety of college athletes,” said Amy Perko, CEO of the Knight Commission. Via Newsweek.com

Parsing out the numbers even further, the largest segment of dead money paid out in the NCAA comes from the SEC in college football. This shouldn’t be too surprising, since the SEC has been considered the pre-eminent conference in the sport for the last decade plus, and schools are spending a lot of capital to try to compete.

The SEC alone paid out $123.2 million in dead money during the above established timeline, which is more than fellow power conferences the Big Ten and the Big 12 combined.

Exorbitant payouts made to fired coaches is not something the coaches themselves should be admonished for. At the end of the day, just like everyone else, coaches and their agents are looking to negotiate the best deals they can for themselves. Getting paid not to work is certainly something no one would individually complain about.

RELATED ARTICLE: How College Football Head Coach Salaries Have Exploded

However, it’s clear that in order to attract the best talent, institutions are comfortable with these types of clauses. In a free market, it would be hard to legislate this to curtail it moving forward, but it would be nice if some of these funds made their way back to the students.

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