There is no question that serving as a college football coach is a difficult job that is both time consuming and stressful. How many people would really take a job where their employment fate hinged on 18-22 year old young men? There probably are not many people that would accept such a circumstance. However, college football coaches are compensated handsomely and there are plenty of able coaches waiting in line for a seven figure contract.
Over the course of the last several years, the rave in intercollegiate athletics has been to hire a coach-in-waiting to keep talented assistant coaches and coordinators on staff for a future shot at being the head coach. Several years ago, Jimbo Fisher agreed to be the coach-in-waiting at Florida State University and many others followed suit. Unlike Jimbo Fisher, other coaches have been unwilling to wait for their turn. Recently, Will Muschamp, former defensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting at the University of Texas, set his sights on being a head football coach immediately and accepted such position at the University of Florida. Similarly, offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting at the University of Maryland, James Franklin, was rumored to have accepted the head coaching position at Vanderbilt University. It seems these coaches do not want to wait for the current head coaches to retire or be asked to retire before leading a college football program.
The coach-in-waiting contract is an interesting animal. The agreements are set up so coaches will be paid a “penalty”, usually in the seven figures, if the coach-in-waiting is not the head coach by a certain date. Often times, a coach-in-waiting must stay in that role for five years waiting for their chance. The benefits of entering into such an agreement are 1) the coach generally receives a nice raise; 2) the coach is provided with some security that he will be the next head coach; and 3) the coach will be paid a sizeable penalty if he is not named the head coach by a certain date. Universities also benefit from this arrangement because they are able to keep talented coaches on staff when they would have likely left the university for other employment.
Although these agreements can benefit both parties, it appears this approach may be a fade. What is the motivation to provide a coach with a substantial pay raise to be the coach-in-waiting when the coach will simply leave for a more expedient option a year or two after signing the coach-in-waiting contract? On the other side of the ball, why would a coach pass up the opportunity to lead another desirable program immediately to wait another five years for the same shot? A lot can change in five years, i.e., NCAA infractions, a change of fate for the team, or change of administration.
Legal counsel and university administrators are becoming more and more creative by the hour to provide for new opportunities, bonuses, perks, and terms. Five years from now, people will probably look back quizzically about the coach-in-waiting. Only time will tell.
For any questions, feel free to contact Christian Dennie at firstname.lastname@example.org.