Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Nebraska Got Off Easy With Bo Pelini's Buyout

Prominent coaches make a lot of money. I mean, a LOT of money. And certainly too much money, when you compare it to teachers, nurses, police officers and firefighters. That's not the coaches fault, for the most part. Like corporate CEO's and entertainers, coaches get what the market demands. Football makes too much money for coaches to not share in the spoils.

So when Bo Pelini signed his $3 million contract, it's what the market for a coach with Pelini's resume would bear. There's a strong case to be made that Pelini was underpaid, compared to, say, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz. And when Nebraska decided to part ways with Pelini, Nebraska was still obligated to pay Pelini under the terms of his contract. There was no clause in Pelini's contract that would allow for the payout to be reduced for his ensuing comments to his players, and even if there were terms like that, that clause might be difficult to enforce for comments made in private.  (And really, would Nebraska like to keep reopening that whole can of worms through additional legal maneuvers?  No.)

Pelini has since signed a new contract with Youngstown State that pays Pelini the same salary that Eric Wolford made last year coaching the Penguins. Some people scoff that Pelini is taking a 93% pay cut, but they miss the point.  Pretty much no matter what job Bo Pelini took, barring a top-ten job nationally, Pelini was going to make the same amount for the next five years, which is what Nebraska's buyout clause specified. Anything Pelini makes will offset the NU buyout, so if Pelini would have pursued the South Carolina defensive coordinator job, as was rumored, NU would still likely owe Pelini around $1 million a year.

Many people scoffed when Pelini took the Youngstown State job, but they conveniently ignore that the move wasn't about money. The money was going to be the same no matter where he ended up.  It became a question of where he wants to be for the next five years, and for Bo Pelini, heading home to Youngstown, Ohio, made the most sense for him.  Primarily because it's what makes the most sense for his wife and children.

And let's be honest, by accepting the salary that Youngstown State paid their last coach, Pelini let Nebraska off easy. He easily could have signed a contract that paid him $50,000 a year or less. It wouldn't have mattered to him; Nebraska would have made up the difference. But it would have freed up resources at Youngstown for other purposes: paying assistants, improving facilities, etc. And if Pelini was really feeling vindictive, it would have increased the pain to Nebraska.

But he didn't. He took it easy on Nebraska and himself. Just signed a simple deal with Youngstown and moved on.

Don't like it?  Well, either tilt at the windmill of the excessive salaries that corporate CEO's and entertainers make in our market economy (you're going to lose on that battle), or keep belaboring how awful Bo Pelini is (if that's somehow going to make anything better).  Or better yet, just move along.

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