A new financial standard has been set for a sport that still can’t find a way to meaningfully compensate the players largely responsible for its success.
Late Friday morning, Clemson announced that it has reached an agreement with head coach Dabo Swinney on a new 10-year, $93 million contract. The per-year average of $9.3 million is the largest ever for a college football coach. In July of last year, Alabama gave Nick Saban a revamped eight-year, $74 million contract while Texas A&M will be paying Jimbo Fisher $75 million over the next 10 years; those were the previous contract standard bearers for the sport.
Swinney will make $8.25 million in total compensation in the first two years of the deal — Saban was the highest-paid coach in college football at $8.3 million in 2018 — with those numbers rising to $8.5 million in Years 3 and 4; $8.75 million in Year 5; $9 million in Year 6; $9.25 million in Year 7; $9.5 million in Year 8; and topping out at $10 million in each of the last two years. Also included in the new deal, which runs through 2028, is a split-life premium of $1 million (executed by Sept. 1, 2019) as well as a pair of $1 million retention bonuses, each payable in the springs of 2021 and 2023.
Aside from the sheer magnitude of the dollars involved, arguably the most interesting aspect of the deal is the buyout. Specifically, language is included that would increase the buyout Swinney, who played his college football at Alabama and has long been rumored as Saban’s eventual successor in Tuscaloosa, would be forced to pay by 50 percent should he leave Clemson for his alma mater.
Conversely, the university would owe Swinney $50 million if he’s fired without cause in the first two years of the deal; $47.5 million in Years 3 and 4; $45 million in Year 5; and 100-percent of his remaining compensation through the end of the contract.
Swinney has won 116 games during his nearly 11 full seasons as the Tigers’ head coach, a number that’s second on the school’s all-time list. Clemson has won two of the last three national championships, with both of those wins coming at the expense of Swinney’s alma mater.
“I am grateful and humbled by the incredible commitment Clemson has made to me, my family and our football program,” Swinney said in a statement. “For more than a decade, we have given our all to provide this world-class university and our incredible fans the championship football program they deserve – to live up to Best is the Standard. With this contract, we make a collective statement that we intend to continue pursuing championships and developing total student-athletes for years to come. Our sustained continuity in vision, people and culture have been a key ingredient to our success, on and off the field. I am thankful for the leadership we have at Clemson and appreciate all they do for Clemson Football. I am truly blessed to be your Head Football Coach.”