17 Mistakes College Assistant Coaches Make With Their Contracts, Part 1

Feb 12, 2012 | Program Development, Evaluations

By X&O Labs Research Staff

As coaches, we all see the prestige associated with coaching America's greatest game. We flock to various conventions, scour over daily television reports and flood coaching websites hungry for the next job opportunity. So it's not surprising when we see a former colleague, mentor or friend leave for greener pastures and land the next coordinator or position coach job. But what we don't see is the handshake agreements that are not included in the contract, the neglected clauses and the other shortcuts taken to get a deal done in time for a press conference. The coaches themselves often don't even realize their mistakes until they find themselves fired and left wondering where they went wrong. But by then it's too late. In this X&O Labs' Coaching Research Report, we are offering an exclusive look into the biggest and most common mistakes that are made in coaching contracts so that you don't fall victim to them, too.

In 2011, researchers at X&O Labs have surveyed 1,800 college level assistant football coaches and interviewed coaching agents, attorneys and employment experts. We've found what we consider to be the 17 Mistakes College Assistant Coaches Make with Their Contracts. You can review the raw data - in the form of graphs - from our research of assistant coaches' contracts: Click here for the Statistical Analysis Report.

You can't change the brutality of the business of coaching college football, but there is one thing you can do - protect yourself and your family.

The following is part one of a two part report by X&O Labs. Part one features contract mistakes 1 through 9. In Part two, we will discuss contract mistakes 10 through 17 (click here to read part two). The following mistakes are in no subsequent order.

Mistake #1: Not Having a Contract

The Problem:


Perhaps the old coaching adage, "I'd do this for free," does have some merit to it. Surprisingly enough, it's not just the mid-major and small time programs that are buying into this philosophy. Over 36% of coaches polled have worked essentially on borrowed time by not having a contract. Even some NFL assistants we spoke with have not finalized their contracts. According to one BCS level coach, for the last two years he has worked without a contract from March to June and couldn't get on the field for the first day of two-a-days in August because a contract had not been finalized.

This is one of the easiest traps to fall into. Many coaches are often hired right before spring football begins, so before they know it they're caught up in drills and don't have the time or legal assistance to finalize a written contract.

The Solution:

According to agent Dennis Cordell of Coaches, Inc., most teams want to form one-year contracts that offer no long-term job security. However, in recent years there have been more multi-year deals signed at FCS and FBS levels. "I think now you need to produce at least a two-year deal. If one of my clients needs to uproot his family and move across the country for a job, then he's going to need more security. Not only do multi-year contracts protect the coach financially if he is fired before the contract expires, they also can deter schools from firing a coach when he has more than one year on his deal."

Mistake #2: Not Saving a Copy of the Contract Signed by Both Parties on File

The Problem:


We were surprised to see this one make our list. Keeping a copy of your employment contract on file is common sense. Shockingly, we found over 36% of college assistant football coaches do not have a copy of their contract signed by both parties.

As detail-oriented as coaches are when it comes to their programs, some are not meticulous enough to store away important documentation - documentation that can cost them tens of thousands of dollars.

During our research, one attorney who asked not to be identified shared an example of how important it is to keep a signed copy of your contract on file: "I sat in on conferences where there was a dispute with a $6 million signing bonus from a NFL defensive player. The franchise said they didn't agree to a specific term - and the player lost out on all that money simply because he or his agent didn't have a copy of his contract to prove it."

Cordell added: "Some of the coaches I've signed still may not have a copy of their contract on them and need to check with their wives because they don't know where it is. Often times they can't produce it within 30 minutes."

The Solution:

Keep a copy of your contract, signed by both parties, in a safe place that you can access within 30 minutes. In fact, one employment expert we talked with took this advice to the next level: "Every coach should keep the original signed copy of their contracts at home in a safe or fire box. I also have them scan the contract and keep on their computer in the event they need to email copies. And, obviously, your attorney or agent will always want a copy on file as well."