Coach Lane Kiffin and FAU are both pretending that his new contract will keep him at FAU for the long haul. The details of that contract have now been released and it shows the lie.
The contract purports to be a 10-year deal. Kiffin will earn a base salary of $950,000 a year. There are some other incentives and perks that add value, but they’re small potatoes compared to the salary and to what top college football coaches earn. Several coaches earn over $5M a year and Nick Saban gets over $11M from Alabama.
Kiffin is at FAU arguably because his somewhat controversial history made it difficult for him to get a job with a top team. See for example Fox Sports. He’s really at FAU to put in a few years demonstrating his competence (he is undeniably a brilliant coach) and stability until a top team is ready for him and needs him.
That’s where the buyout clause in his contract comes in. While it’s ostensibly a 10-year deal, Kiffin can leave at no cost starting January 1, 2022, six years before the end of the contract. If he leaves earlier there’s are set buyout amounts ranging from $2M if he leaves before the end of 2018 down to $500K if he leaves during the 2021 calendar year. Oddly the buyout amounts are cut in half if University President John Kelly stops serving in that “capacity” at any time during the term of the contract.
As a side note, the wording of that part about the University President creates some big potential loopholes. If Kelly takes a sabbatical or a brief leave of absence, does that trigger the reduction? If he leaves the position after Kiffin quits, could Kiffin claw back half of whatever he paid?
If a major college football (or NFL) team decides they want Kiffin and are ready to pay him $5M or more, the $1.5M (2019) or $1M (2020) buyout price will be a trivial extra cost. This 10-year contract does little to keep Kiffin in Boca for any longer than the time it will take him to rehabilitate his reputation.
We hope we are wrong. We would love it if Kiffin would stay at FAU. He’s great for the team, for the university and for the community. But the reality is he’ll be gone by the end of 2020.
The full contract (pdf) is below:Kiffin, Lane Contract 2d Amdt EXECUTED 6.20.18