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By Mike Kuchar

Senior Research Manager

X&O Labs

Last week, X&O Labs published part one of a two-part installment on the 17 biggest mistakes college assistant coaches make with their contracts. We've sifted through the fine print, and examined the details of hundreds of contracts. Although the process may have been tedious, the results were rewarding. To us, there is no better satisfaction than helping you, our readers, discover new coaching trends and information that help you better your program and career.

We've surveyed college level assistant football coaches and interviewed coaching agents, attorneys and employment experts - including lengthy research with the founder of a prominent coaches representation company, Dennis Cordell of Coaches, Inc. We've found what we consider to be The 17 Biggest Mistakes College Assistant Coaches Make with Their Contracts. These mistakes are in no particular order.

Before we advance, if you have not read part one of this two-part research report featuring mistakes and solutions #1 through #9 – please click here to read part one – you can come back here and read mistakes and solutions #10 through #17.

Mistake #10: Not Securing Performance-Based Bonuses

The Problem:

This, of course, was only a problem when coaches weren't pushing for it. NFL players often get bonuses for playoff appearances and personal productivityso why can't coaches? Previously, what may have been a case of "don't ask, don't tell," has now been brought to the forefront of negotiating.

The Solution:

The FCS (football championship subdivision, formerly D-1AA) teams have limited salary pools, but we've found establishing individual performance based bonuses beforehand are easier for Athletic Directors to sell to people across campus. "One of the problems in FCS is participating schools don't generate playoff revenues as FBS schools do with bowl games." says Cordell. "Although bowl bonuses are the norm in FBS, standard playoff bonuses for assistants are minimal to non-existent at the FCS level. If it was my client, I would ask for bonuses for common measurable achievements for his position group; such as rushing yards and RB all-conference honors for a RB Coach. You can also get creative, like having a bonus for losing less than three fumbles per year or averaging more than 5 yards per carry. This type of bonus money is easier for the school to swallow because it's validated with numbers and does not apply to every assistant on staff." Might as well ask, what do you have to lose?

Mistake #11: Allow Reassignment to Non-Coaching Position

The Problem:

The bottom line is if a school doesn't want you but still owes you money, it can make life hard on you by reassigning you to a new job. Many coaching contracts allow schools to reassign coaches to other departments within the school without their consent; such as handling admissions, operating the fitness center or working in the compliance office. Colleges incorporate this into contracts, particularly multi-year deals, in case the fired coach isn't offered a spot on the new coach's staff. Apparently, universities are not the only institutions where this is occurring. "It happens in the NFL, too," said Cordell. "Let's say someone gets fired, has a year left on his deal and can't find another coaching job because he was not allowed to interview with other teams but the new head coach did not want him on his coaching staff. Now what does he do? I remember hearing about a former Oakland Raiders assistant who was told he was going to have to be a scout and spend countless time on the road to try to make him quit. They ended up not requiring him to do it, but he had to physically pick up his check twice a month from the Raiders office so he couldn't move to a less expensive part of the country. They made it miserable for him."

The Solution:

According to Cordell, once a coach always a coach, don't accept any other title in your contract because it will hurt your chances of continuing your coaching career. "Don't accept blanket reassignment. It needs to be a coaching job or position within the athletics department with a title and description commensurate with your educational background and reputation in the industry. They shouldn't make you be the ticket counter at the gate."

Mistake #12: Allow Schools to Stop Paying You If They've Fired You Without Cause, Even If You Can Only Find a Lower Paying Job

The Problem:

Take the following hypothetical scenario to prove this point: Let's say you were hired for two years at a salary of $200,000 per year. You moved your family and bought a new house based on the guarantee of $400,000 over the next two years. If the university decides to release you after the first year without cause, you are still owed your salary (200k) for the remaining year on your contract. At this point, it's in your best interest to find another coaching job because sitting out a year can be a hindrance to your career. But, in some cases, we've found schools may stop paying you as soon as you take a new job, even if it is for less money. If the only job you can find after being fired pays you a $100,000, you could wind up losing $100,000.

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The Solution:

Make sure that if you take another job immediately after your firing, your previous place of work pays the remainder of your contract. When working out these details, there are two advantageous scenarios according to Cordell. "The best thing to do is to receive the entire amount remaining, regardless of what job you might take. The next best thing is to receive the offsetting difference from the school that fired you [in the above mentioned scenario: $100k from your new school and $100k from your last school]. Sometimes you have to take a lower paying job to continue coaching and the offset softens the blow. This applies even on one year deals that run June to June because the coach will only take the hit of the lower salary for six months. I'd estimate half the college contracts I deal with have an offset provision and it's an important thing to know for financial planning."

Mistake #13: Not Getting Use of a Car Guaranteed

The Problem:

Seven out of twelve months per year, college coaches are on the road recruiting, so it only makes sense that the university supplies them with a car and travel expenses. But, we've found that's not always the case. Coaches are often promised a car verbally but not guaranteed one in their contracts. Instead of handling payments up front with dealerships, many universities are issuing stipends in which coaches are paying the difference. For example, a $300 stipend per month may not cover a new car payment and insurance, leaving the coach to pay the remainder, including tags and taxes.

The Solution:

There are usually plenty of dealerships around the school's vicinity that the school should work with as sponsors of the football program. Coaches should negotiate the use of an insured dealer car - one with all expenses covered beforehand; or an adequate stipend that will cover the costs of a new car and insurance after taxes.

Mistake #14: Not Getting Moving Expenses Guaranteed

The Problem:

Negotiating moving finances are perhaps even more imperative than bidding for car expenses. It's a transient profession. We all know the duration of a coach at one university is limited. You will need to move sooner than later, so you need to make sure it's a smooth transition by having the school cover all of your costs. "The issue my guys have run into is that many schools push their own preferred vendors on you and tell you they will cover the costs," says Cordell. "However, the school usually has a cost in mind. If the preferred vendor moves you and submits a bill to the school for twice what the school expected, you probably will have issues with the school and the mover."

The Solution:

Cordell recommends establishing some sort of maximum to cover the full amount, which according to him, can cost a family of four upwards of $15,000, then start your homework on the cost so you don't get shortchanged. "You need to know the process," said Cordell. "Get it in writing exactly what the school is willing to pay and work from there. Best case is for the school to pay the full amount, but get at least three bids or use a preferred mover and give the school the estimate before you move. Many schools will cover up to a number, say $5,000. When seeing this, some guys will want to do it themselves with a buddy to help them and expect to pocket the balance. But they may be sorry if the school only reimburses the cost of the rental van and gas, not your labor, and that's it. I've even seen it done on two occasions where the schools requires you to pay back a portion of your moving expenses if you winding up leaving after the first year."

Mistake #15: Not Understanding How Your Fringe Benefits Are Affected (health insurance, retirement plans, etc.), When Transitioning Between Jobs

The Problem:

Most universities offer their own comprehensive health care plan and some sort of retirement benefit that is standard for all school employees. Depending on your school, you may have the chance to qualify for significant benefits after a certain number of years of service, e.g., in Alabama and Connecticut, that should factor into your decision to leave for and accept a new job. If you transition from the NFL to a college coaching position, it's important to know what NFL benefits you lose for good, (the ability to purchase reduced health insurance from your last NFL team), and which ones you can return to (the Rule of 75).

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The Solution:

Have an expert review your situation and explain your options to you and your family.

Mistake #16: Allowing the Person Who Fired You for Cause to Decide Your Appeal

The Problem:

Last week, we detailed the circumstances surrounding the firing of Pittsburgh head coach Mike Haywood only two weeks into his tenure. If a coach, like Haywood in this circumstance, wanted to appeal a decision, chances are the person who made the decision will also decide his appeal - the Athletics Director or President. It's clearly a biased process so his chances of winning a legal battle are marginal to say the least.

The Solution: While Cordell admits this clause is nearly impossible to get changed, it's still something coaches should be aware of. "Let's say you're accused of violating school policy," says Cordell. "The appeal process usually starts and ends with the AD. It's a clearly biased procedure, particularly if you're dealing with the school's limited finances." Cordell recommends getting a neutral organization such as The American Arbitration Association out of New York City to handle and decide disputes. At least you're given a fair shake, and a fair chance for success.

Mistake #17: Not Talking About Contracts With Other Coaches on Staff

The Problem:

There is always strength in numbers. However, coaches often feel the terms of their employment are private matters and do not want to discuss what's been offered with other coaches on their staff. If you discuss the issues you have with the other coaches on your staff, and EVERYONE on staff stands together, you will have a much better chance of getting your contractual problems resolved.

The Solution:

Where appropriate, treat your approach to your contract as you do your game plan - discuss it with the other members of your staff, figure out the strengths and weaknesses, then implement your plan of attack - together.

Concluding Report

Coaching in the competitive world of collegiate football is difficult enough, so why make it harder on yourself by not knowing the rules of the game, literally? It's a big business. Coaches get fired and hired on a daily basis for a plethora of reasons other than their win/loss record. So why not protect yourself now before you sign that contract and ensure there is a level playing field and no hidden agendas? Therefore, when these mishaps do happen to you, and they eventually will, you'll be prepared and know exactly how to handle them.

X&O Labs would like to extend a special "Thank You" to Dennis Cordell, founder of Coaches, Inc., a sports marketing and representation company for coaches. During our research, we spoke with many attorneys, agents, coaches, and employment experts. Dennis and his staff at Coaches, Inc. provided us with insider details that truly protect coaches, their careers and their families. If you would like more information on Dennis Cordell and the services of Coaches, Inc., please visit their website at www.CoachesInc.com.

Questions or Comments?  If you have any questions or comments about coaching contracts please post below and we'll get it answered.

Copyright X&O Labs 2012



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