SportsPulse: With the annual release of our college basketball coaches compensation database, Trysta Krick looked at some of the best perks in the contracts of the top coaches in the country.
Former LSU coach Johnny Jones will make just $50,000 in base salary as the head men’s basketball coach at Texas Southern this season.
Yes, you read that correctly.
In a world of ever-growing coaching salaries, where 55 coaches are making $2 million or more, Jones is being paid a relatively minuscule sum. His base salary is less than 1 percent of the $7.95 million that Kentucky is paying John Calipari this season. And it’s less than that each of the three full-time assistants on Jones’ own staff will be paid during the same time period.
In fact, it’s more or less the salary of an everyman in Houston, where the university is located. According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics, the average median household income in the area is $49,399.
So what’s the catch?
Salary database: See a detailed breakdown of how much coaches make
Let’s just say there’s a good reason Texas Southern could offer Jones such a paltry salary – and it has everything to do with Jones’ former employer, LSU.
The Tigers fired Jones without cause in March 2017, but his contract stipulated that he would receive $400,000 annually in buyout money, minus whatever he made in a future job. When Mike Davis left Texas Southern after leading it to four NCAA tournament appearances in five seasons, the Southwestern Athletic Conference school was able to structure Jones’ five-year contract in a way that effectively circumvented LSU’s intent.
Jones might be making only $50,000 in his first season, but his base salary will jump to $250,000 on July 4, four days after his LSU buyout expires. He’ll also receive a one-time retention bonus of $200,000 on Aug. 1, which amounts to back pay for his first year.
Jones and athletics director Kevin Granger both declined to comment on the structure of the coach’s deal to USA TODAY Sports.
Texas Southern is hardly the first school to use a new coach’s previous buyout provision to its advantage. In another recent example, Charlie Strong coached South Florida for $1 million while continuing to rake in seven-figure buyout payments from Texas.
In many cases, these loopholes are the byproduct of a few missing words in a contract.
While many deals in Division I football and men’s basketball stipulate that a fired coach must make a reasonable effort to find a job and that his buyout payments will be reduced by all or some of his new salary, some do not explicitly require that the new job pay a market-value salary.
Those contracts — like the one Jones signed at LSU — leave the door open for coaches to essentially double-dip.
LSU’s athletics department declined to comment through spokesperson Robert Munson, but there are hints the school became aware of this issue. New coach Will Wade’s contract states that he must not only look for a new job if he is fired without cause but also that he has to be paid a salary “commensurate with the value of such services on the open market” — language that wasn’t in Jones deal.
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Contact Tom Schad at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.