Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Most people worry about job security, unless their name is Gene Chizik. He’s the Auburn coach who got fired after coaching the Tigers to a 3-9 record. How was he rewarded for his shortcomings? With a $7.5 million buyout, thank you very much.
Failure has never been so appealing.
Maybe if he’d gone winless, the school would have bought him a villa in Tuscany.
But if the world seems out of whack, look no further than Weber State for a touch of sanity. There, football coach Jody Sears has tied his security to performance.
Sears signed a three-year extension in November that stipulates if he doesn’t win four games next year he can be fired without further compensation. Weber can dismiss him without so much as a snack for the road.
While other coaches are signing contracts that guarantee millions for failure, Sears is saying he doesn’t need all that. Give him a whistle and he’s fine.
If he crashes, so will his paydays.
“Weber State has been so good to me and I really, really appreciate the opportunity,” Sears said on Tuesday.
When the Wildcats extended his contract, following a two-win season, he said he didn’t need guarantees; he needed believers. Not just believers in winning, he said, but in graduating and growing.
“Process over outcome,” he said on Tuesday. “Process over outcome.”
If he voluntarily leaves — as did predecessor John L. Smith, who never coached a game — he will owe the school $20,000 in the first year, $5,000 less each ensuing year from his $130,000 contract. But if he has another season like 2012, the school can fire him without cost. The same stipulation applies if he doesn’t win six games in 2014.
So much for golden parachutes.
“It’s a little unusual but not uncommon — I learned that after talking with coaches and lawyers,” Sears said.
While the Wildcats operate on a much smaller level than the big football schools, the principle is intriguing. Universities struggle to retain top coaches at exorbitant salaries and pay enormous buyouts. If the coach takes another job, the school is left to regroup, even if he must pay a buyout of his own.
Even when wealthy boosters foot the bill, the costs are unwanted. Those boosters didn’t get rich by showering unproductive employees with cash. Thus, the beat goes on. South Florida’s Skip Holtz got $2.5 million for getting fired and Kentucky’s Joker Phillips received the same for flaming out. Hmmm. Skip, Joker those are a couple of good names for gag lines.
Jeff Tedford of Cal got a $6.9 million fare-thee-well last fall. After the 2011 season, Ole Miss paid Houston Nutt $6 million to go away.
Speaking nuts, is that where Sears has gone?
“I’ve had a few friends say that, and I look at them and say it’s not that I will be (fired), but I could be,” Sears said. “I say, ‘Don’t you have a quota to meet at your work every month?’”
He points out that he had quotas when he was a car salesman in Lewiston, Idaho, years ago. He grew up on a quarter horse farm near Pullman, Wash. His wife was raised on a wheat farm.
“Cows need milking, horses need to get fed, it’s a work ethic of accountability that you have instilled while you’re growing up,” he said.
Sears says he didn’t actually propose the terms of his contract but he readily agreed to them.
“It’s what they brought to the table and I said, ‘Let’s get it on; let’s go,’” Sears said.
“Some guys look at me crossways, but at the same time (Weber) went to bat for this staff and has given us the opportunity and has been steadfast in its support.”
Will he complain if he wins three games next year and is fired?
“Probably,” he laughed. “I’d want to plead my case. But I’m extremely optimistic. I always think the glass is half full.”
Not everyone needs a cup that runneth o’er.
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