Tuesday, December 01, 2009

College football's biggest winner: Charlie Weis! 

Charlie Weis, as his reward for being fired from the head coaching job at Notre Dame, collects a "lottery jackpot" contract buyout of a reported $18 million. That brings the total pay he's collected from Notre Dame to $36 million for coaching its team for five years to a 35-27 record.

But this is collegiate "amateur" sports, folks. So the real winning and losing is tallied in the bank accounts.

Most of Charlie's game-day wins came in his first two seasons, during which he went 19-6 with players inherited from the prior coach. But his big-money win arrived just half-way through his first season.

Charlie initially signed a six-year contract at $2 million a year, starting in 2005. Then came one of the, um, singular contract renegotiations of all time -- "greatest" or "worst" depending on the side from which you are looking.

When he was only seven games into his first season, with a record of 5-2, Notre Dame gave him a new 10-year extension starting from 2006, worth $30 million to $40 million, making him the highest paid coach in all of college football.

Get me that man's lawyer! It helps to have options too. Charlie's original contract gave him a $1.5 million buyout option to leave. His lawyer no doubt threatened said to Notre Dame, "This guy is a highly-esteemed top assistant pro coach on Super Bowl winning teams and has plenty of options to return to the NFL. For a pro team that wants him, paying you $1.5 million is peanuts. He could be out the door at any time..." And Notre Dame caved -- oh boy, did they caaaavveee!

Negotiation lesson: Charlie's lawyer was planning that second contract while negotiating the first. "For the new coach to leave Notre Dame right after he arrives -- so soon after they fired the previous coach -- would be a disaster for the university. So we'll congenially negotiate a nice modest contract, with a modest buy-out clause for our side that they won't think about because everybody's being so friendly about it all. Then we'll have them on the hook -- and can demand far more than we could get in any original contract." Because at that point Charlie has all the options, Notre Dame has none.

I mean, demanding a complete renegotiation with a mega-raise like this only part-way into the first year of a six-year contract ... it's hardly decent. Salute that lawyer! I want him on my side.

But as for the Notre Dame side, yuch! Contracts are like peace treaties -- they last until one side can get an advantage on the other by breaking it, its official term of years not mattering.

When negotiating the Notre Dame side you have to think: "Today all the options are ours, we can sign any other coach. But once we sign this deal we're locked in. What other options will he keep then? To stop him from using them, how much of a penalty for using them can we impose through the contract now, while we have the power?" Yet those negotiating for Notre Dame evidently didn't.

Even so, when the showdown comes, you don't have to cave. But they caaaavvveeed! In spite of being savaged in many quarters for doing so...
the powers that be at Notre Dame, who haven't made a truly smart coaching decision in recent memory ... still don't have a clue.

...the decision to gamble so heavily on Weis borders on lunacy. You'd think Notre Dame would know better after going through the fiasco with [predecessor coach] Ty Willingham, who actually had a more impressive start than Weis'. Willingham was undefeated after the first eight games of his Notre Dame career, and he was getting the same kind of love that Weis is receiving now. By the end of his third season the Irish couldn't get him out of town fast enough...

Irish administrators had better hope that [Weis] continues to outsmart his opponents as easily as he outwitted them. [SI, 11/2/05]
Today the question I see being asked about Charlie Weis in the various sports forums is: "Where will Charlie go next? ESPN says he already has offers from six NFL teams..."

Where will Charlie go next? Anywhere he pleases. In his private jet, on his yacht, or on his private train, whichever he prefers.

Postscript: Looking it up I see Charlie's "lawyer" was agent Bob LaMonte. Kudos to Bob for being, truly, Charlie's Most Valuable Player.