Jimmy Clausen Bulks Up

April 21, 2008

While perusing some spring football articles, I came across one courtesy of the AP talking about how Jimmy Clausen is trying to bulk up for this Fall. You remember Jimmy right? The hype machine of a quarterback from California who went to Notre Dame and promptly was buried under a mountain of defenders? Here, this should jog your memory:

After a soap opera surrounding the quarterback position for the first game of the season, we saw Jimmy start every game for the Irish. Well, those games he was healthy for. What you see above is the main reason he missed a couple games last season. I’m no Notre Dame scholar, but that 2007 offensive line had to be one of, if not the worst in school history.

Thanks to backup Evan Sharpley, the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster until Fall, playing baseball right now, Clausen is getting all the reps and attention he can get. There were some reports recently that Brady Quinn got 19 of Charlie Weis’s 20 allowed coaching hours a week, so all that attention could help him improve greatly if he can improve to the degree that Quinn did. He’ll need some extra help to break through his familial ceiling, given that his brothers Casey and Rick (to a lesser extent) had nice college careers at Tennessee, but no pro success.

The report is that he’s gained 18 pounds in the off season, putting him at 212 pounds on his 6’3″ frame. He’s a believer, saying the added bulk with help him with, “speed, getting out of the pocket, breaking tackles and stuff like that.” If you notice, none of that has to do with being a pocket passer, the thing that Notre Dame recruited him to be. It amounts to an admission that he expects to spend a good deal of time under duress this season.

I don’t expect Notre Dame to go 3-9 again next season, since the extra year of experience for all of the young players will give them a boost. Just glancing at the schedule, the games against San Diego State, Stanford, Navy, and Syracuse all look like wins even if the team isn’t any better. I don’t know if enough other problems will be solved it hit 6 wins and earn a trip to the 1st Annual Nowhere Bowl in Lubbock, Texas, but with North Carolina, Washington, Michigan State, and Purdue on the schedule anything is possible.

The reports so far from Notre Dame’s spring game is that Clausen performed very well, and could be ready for a breakout season. We’ll see, but if that happens you can expect to hear something again about how it had to do with the time he spent eating cheeseburgers, err, bulking up this spring.


Magic: Back in the Playoffs

April 19, 2008

This falls in the “and More” category. See banner graphic.

It is with a twinge of regret that I write this, as I grew up in Orlando and have loved the Magic for many years. I am now in Charlotte, a city where pro basketball died many years ago. I am excited about the start NBA playoffs, but the only sports interest around here is what the Panthers will do in the NFL draft.

Everyone knows, this is the first 50 win season for the Magic since the Shaq and Penny days. So much has happened since then – Chuck Daly came and went, Heart and Hustle, the McGrady and Hill signings, Howard and Nelson in the same draft, the idiotic Steve Francis experiment, Brian Hill’s return, the Billy Donovan fiasco, and finally, Stan van Gundy taking over as coach. Of late, there have been some disappointments, like anything from the draft post-2004, and some pleasant surprises, like Hedo Turkoglu going from a mid-level exception signing to a go-to guy or trading for Brian Cook and ending up with a starting 2-guard in Maurice Evans at the same time.

Now they’re in the playoffs as the third seed in the East. It’s a young team, and the universal expectation is that they’ll win one series at most. Honestly, winning a series would be great considering they haven’t won a first round series since before the Gators had won their first football national championship. They’ll almost certainly get the Pistons in round two, and though the Magic split the season series 2-2 with them, Detroit still won 59 games and is deadly in the playoffs. An upset there wouldn’t be a complete shock to me, but it still would be unexpected.

Even though I was 9 at the time, I can still remember the excitement about the Magic in the 1995 playoffs. The city was abuzz. Cars everywhere had “I believe in Magic” bumper stickers on them. Horace Grant goggles started showing up everywhere around town. The team actually could run retail stores, called Orlando Magic FanAttics, and they’d actually make lots of money. The sense of community and camaraderie in Orlando has never been higher. It was fitting since the team had only known joy after the expansion growing pains.

The Magic, just like the fans, are a little older and a little wiser. We’ve experienced the pain all other NBA franchises have had to. We’ve seen the team almost leave or be sold a couple times. Now it’s time to embark on another playoff journey together. Dwight, Jameer, Turk, Rashard, and Maurice will take the floor tomorrow against Toronto and the dream will be alive again. I only wish I could be there to see it.

Coaches’ Contracts: Les Miles

April 18, 2008

The next stop on the SEC coach contract tour is Baton Rouge for Les Miles’ legally binding document with LSU.

The first thing you find out, and it’s in bold and all caps too, is that LSU’s full name is “Lousiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College.” That’s LSUA&MC for those of you keeping score at home. So does the contract use Leslie Edwin Miles’s full name? Nope, he’s just Les Miles.

As with Nick Saban at Alabama, Miles had to initial every page of his contract, including the one with everyone’s signatures. The contract also has the odd convention of writing out numerical values and putting the value as expressed by numbers in parenthesis after. Money values are written out as if it was a check. See the selected quotes below for an example.

His bonuses are pretty standard – for bowl games, winning the SEC West, winning the entire SEC, and appearing in the BCS national championship game. He does not get any extra money over the $175,000 for appearing in the BCS title game, but you’d think a coach wouldn’t need extra motivation to want to win it.

This one’s for you guys, Trindon. I’m all out of performance bonuses.

On top of those, though, he gets relative pay adjustments. If he wins 10 games, his total pay must be at least the 5th highest in the SEC, if he wins the conference his total pay must be at least the third highest in the SEC, and if he wins the national title his total compensation for the year must be at least the third highest in all of Division I. This is notable because the USA Today shows him as having the sixth-highest total pay in the conference, not counting those relative pay kickers.

The rest of the contract is mostly bland legal stuff regarding conduct, buyouts, and everything else you’d expect in a contract. Attached after the contract, though, is a letter to Miles dated December 5, 2006 from former LSU Chancellor (and former NASA administrator) Sean O’Keefe announcing that the school would extend his contract. It concludes with:

“Congratulations on another successful season! Geaux Tigers!”

Only at LSU.

Selected Quotes:

“The UNIVERSITY agrees to pay COACH an annual salary of Three Hundred Thousand and No/00 ($300,000.00) Dollars, payable in twelve (12) equal monthly installments.”

This is an example of the odd phrasing of numerical values.

“COACH further acknowledges that he has no expectation of the granting of tenure by UNIVERSITY.”

I can’t recall a mention of tenure by other contracts. It makes sense, of course, not to give a coach tenure because then it would be impossible to fire him.

“Within ten (10) days of the expiration or termination of this agreement… COACH shall return to the UNIVERSITY all credit cards and keys issued to him by UNIVERSITY.”

Do coaches usually get to keep credit cards and keys? This is the kind of frivolous contract-padding that makes me think the lawyers got paid by the word. The document already established that anything LSU gives to him as a part of his job must be returned, so why do credit cards and keys warrant their own sentence?

Keys? Wait, where did I put my keys? Crap, someone frisk Perrilloux.

Coaches’ Contracts: Rich Brooks

April 17, 2008

The parade of SEC coach contract analysis continues on with Rich Brooks‘s contract with Kentucky.

The tidy, 19-page contract between the University of Kentucky and Richard L. Brooks is interesting, but not because it has a lot of unintentionally funny legalese throughout it. It also goes beyond the fact that page 14 of it somehow got moved from between pages 13 and 15 to the end, after the signature page.

First of all, it indicates that Kentucky is serious about fielding a competitive football team within the SEC and will reward the coach handsomely for doing so. He gets a performance bonus of $50,000 each for his fifth and sixth SEC wins of a season, and $75,000 each for his seventh and eighth SEC wins in a season. He also gets $100,000 for winning the division. So, winning all 8 SEC games would give him $350,000 right there, more ten times as much as Mark Richt would get for winning all 8 SEC games and activating his SEC East championship bonus. If he wins the SEC championship game, that’s another $200,000. His non-BCS bowl bonuses are tied to the payout of the game.

Beyond the on-field bonuses he gets, Brooks also gets some for off-field achievements. If gross ticket revenue increases from the previous year, he gets 10% of that increase. So, if UK ups their ticket prices, you can bet he’s behind that all the way. In terms of academics, his bonuses are tied to a cumulative team GPA above 2.75, and curiously a minimum .925 Academic Progress Rate. If you’re not familiar with that, it’s an NCAA stat based on graduation rates, and if your team goes below .925 it loses scholarships. The academic bar is clearly not set that high.

Rich Brooks applauds his team for not flunking out of school in droves, thereby earning him up to an extra $55,000. Any picture of Rich Brooks in UK gear must really unnerve Oregon fans.

One of the key arguments in the Rich Rodriguez contract dispute with WVU is an allegation by Rodriguez that the school promised him they’d upgrade the facilities, but the school has yet to do that. He should have borrowed Rich Brooks’s agent then, because Brooks had university-provided “improvements to the Football Program” written right into his contract. The lesson, as always, is that if you want something done you need to have it in writing.

There really isn’t much else to note, other than the use of fake-sounding words like “effectuate,” because this is a remarkably clear and concise contract. If you’re wondering about any mentions of the basketball program, because this is Kentucky we’re talking about and I know you are, he gets four tickets to every home game. That’s the only mention of basketball in the whole thing.

Selected Quotes:

“Coach’s duties, responsibilities and obligations shall be those normally associated with the position of head football coach at a Division I university such as the University of Kentucky.”

Because we wouldn’t want to require anything extraordinary out of Rich Brooks. Then again, competing in the SEC at Kentucky probably falls in the “extraordinary” bucket.

“The University agrees to undertake and provide additional improvements to the Football Program in an effort to increase the overall success of the Football Program.”

Yeah, it’s somewhat vague. Still, had Rich Rodriguez got this put in his contract, well, he’d actually have leg to stand on in his current dispute with WVU concerning unfulfilled promises regarding facilities upgrades.

“It is not the intention of the parties that this Agreement be terminable for minor, technical or otherwise insignificant University regulations or for NCAA or SEC violations which do not entail the risk of major institutional penalties.”

No coach ever gets fired for a technicality unless the school really, really wants him gone, but I have yet to see another coach have a protection against that written in his contract.

When Rich Brooks speaks, the media fires up the bleep machine.

Coaches’ Contracts: Mark Richt

April 16, 2008

The series of SEC coaching contract analysis passes the midway point with Mark Richt’s deal with Georgia.

Image from georgiadogs.com

At first glance, it looks as though Mark Richt’s contract is between him and the University of Georgia Athletic Association and therefore he’s not officially a state employee, just like Urban Meyer is not a state employee of Florida. However, it clearly states a little later that he’s an employee of the University System of Georgia. Any other speculation regarding his employment is moot, since he has an excellent record as a head coach and has no incentive to leave.

The contract leads off with his duties and powers, the only contract to mention “powers” of any kind. It would be awesome if his contract gave him powers like flying or the ability to transmute into a liquid, but instead it gives him empty, so-called powers like the ability to recommend assistant coach candidates (that the AD can unilaterally veto) and to agree with the scheduling choices the AD already made. Most other coaches get full power for hiring and firing assistants, as well as significant influence in setting the slate of games.

His goal as coach as spelled out here is at first seems noble, but the ulterior motive is found a couple paragraphs down. It first says he must keep the team competitive and supported by the “University Community,” a fine endeavor to create a unifying force in the state of Georgia, right? Except that, it specifically states later that one of his duties is to increase student and fan interest not for the good of the community, but to make enormous amounts of money.

The progression from child to booster really flies by, doesn’t it? Gotta indoctrinate them early! Image CC by Flickr user Natalie Blackburn.

In the way of bonuses, Richt’s deal is pretty straightforward. He gets either $25,000 or $75,000 for winning the SEC East or the overall conference title, and he gets the same amounts in addition for going to a bowl or a BCS bowl, respectively. A top-5 AP poll finish nets $50,000, but a national championship named by the BCS and/or the AP gets him $150,000. He gets $50,000 for his team finishing in the top third in the conference in academics; that’s a bit unique since most other academic bonuses are tied to absolute terms, not relative terms. He does have the sweetest longevity bonus I’ve seen – a cool $2.4 million if he stays through the 2013 season.

Overall, the contract has more of a money-focused feel to it than most of the other ones do, though it’s hard to pick exactly what it is that gives it that feel. Maybe it’s that Richt or the athletic associate twice a year can recommend ways to restructure his pay to reduce his or the university’s tax liability for it. Or maybe it’s that if he leaves for another job, he can pay his $2 million buyout in quarterly installments between his leaving and the end of his contract in 2013. Regardless, it’s a surprisingly restrictive deal for a guy with such a great track record.

Selected Quotes:

“WHEREAS, football is a high emphasis sport at the University;”

Huh. You don’t say. You mean making Mark Richt the highest paid state employee wasn’t enough to demonstrate that?

Someone fire up the “O” signal!

“Richt’s duties and powers include… [t]aking any and all reasonable actions to increase student and fan interest in and support of the Team in order for the Team to generate substantial net revenue for the [UGA Athletic] Association and the University.”

This part of his deal immediately discredits the idea that the UGA football program exists solely for righteous pursuits like giving kids a good education and a great start to adult life. Or that getting students and fans involved is intended to “give back” for their support for that matter. It’s all about keeping them engaged to keep getting their money, and according to this section, poor revenues could be a breach of contract on the head coach’s part. Of course, every other I-A football program exists for the same reason, but few if any others are so brazen in talking about it.

“Richt’s duties and powers include… [w]orking in good faith with the Athletic Director to schedule future opponents identified and approved by the Athletic Director.”

In other words the AD picks out Georgia’s schedule, and it’s up to Richt to schedule the games. He must support all of the AD’s scheduling pursuits and can only object with “reasonable” complaints. Contrast that with Nick Saban or Houston Nutt who were required to recommend their scheduled opponents. Nutt even had to include “dates, places and times” rather than just submit a list of every non-BCS school in the Gulf Coast region as his recommendations.

Paterno and Bowden

April 16, 2008

Two recent articles from ESPN.com couldn’t make the distinction between Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno more clear. The Bowden article is by Heather Dinich; the Paterno article is by Ivan Maisel.

Their Involvement

It’s more accurate to call it an FSU article than a Bowden article, since it is mostly about Jimbo Fisher slowly taking over the program. In any event, here is a quote from Bobby Bowden regarding coaching:

People say, ‘He can’t coach no more.’ Well, a head coach don’t coach. [The assistants] coach. They do all the coaching.

To illustrate Paterno’s involvement, I offer a couple quotes:

CB Willie Harriott: “How did he see my hand on his [the receiver’s] back from way over there?

Assistant coach Tom Bradley: “He’s still in every drill, coming around all over the same place. He doesn’t coach from a tower, you know what I mean.

Could he even climb a tower anymore?

Practice Behavior and Demeanor

Bowden: Sitting quietly in the stands watching his assistants run the practice.

Paterno: Literally kicking former guard and new center Mike Lucian in the rear for not being consistent in the shotgun snap.

Their Records

Bowden: He says he wants to finish with more than 400 career wins and take home another national title before quitting.

Paterno: “I don’t care about the record… You know when they bury you, you going to look up at your stone and say, ‘Hey, I got a record?’ You’re dead. You’re gone. I think there are other things that are more important.

Succession Plans

Bowden: Already underway, with Fisher doing the Seminole Boosters circuit and learning other aspects of the head coaching job while having the safety net of not being the head coach.

Paterno: His attitude is basically “Trust me. I know what I’m doing.”

* * *

They have similar ages and win counts, but that’s about it. They really are that different.

The reason why it’s so easy for Bowden to accept a succession plan is that he is a coach in the way that video game players are coaches. He runs the program, recruits high schoolers, and makes decisions, but when it comes to actually coaching players, someone else does it in the way that EA customers just choose the option of picking an outfit to “coach” during timeouts and seeing the results happen automatically.

He also does commercials, did I mention that?

The reason it’s so hard for Paterno to accept a succession plan is that he still is coaching the players. He’s teaching them technique, giving advice on how not to stare down receivers as a quarterback, and from across the field spying a cornerback putting his hand on a receiver’s back. He coaches everyone on the team, something Bowden has been quoted as saying is not a part of the head coaching job description.

FSU’s succession plan sounds like a great idea for easing the transition, especially since it’s so hard for Mr. Outside Hire to follow a legend at a program. Its transition program makes sense, unless FSU is actually ending up with only half an offensive coordinator as Fisher divides his time between his current and future jobs. After all, the Seminole offense actually was actually worse in Fisher’s first year as compared with Jeff Bowden’s final year.

That’s right – Jimbo’s first offense was worse than any of Jeff Bowden’s offenses.

Penn State, meanwhile, is asking for an extremely difficult situation by not keeping Paterno under contract past this year. PSU can only hope that the legend-following process there works like it did at places like Florida and BYU, where after a brief down period a sharp, young head coach came in and restored glory. The alternative could be like the unmitigated disaster that has been Alabama in the post-Gene Stallings era.

It’s impossible to say what will happen after each is no longer coaching his school. Neither program did anything of note before they got there, so there is nothing before them to base a judgment on. Even if Fisher or Paterno’s eventual successor don’t work out, it may not matter since great programs have survived bad coaches and been fine. What is clear is that you’d be hard-pressed to find two more different coaches.

Coaches’ Contracts: Urban Meyer

April 15, 2008

The SEC coach contract train rumbles along, now with Florida’s own Urban Meyer. As always, the contracts are collected and hosted by the USA Today.

Image CC by Flickr user chasingfun.

As I mentioned before, Urban Meyer is tied with Nick Saban for longest SEC contract (excluding amendments) at 32 pages. It read suspiciously like Saban’s contract at times, leading me to think that someone at UF was reading off of Mike Shula’s deal when drawing it up. It’s just something else to throw in the “Stuff we probably stole from Alabama instead of the other way around” bin along with the Gator band’s pregame routine, the “Go Gators” tune, and the unfortunate concept of a gymnastics band.

The defining characteristic of the contract is overwhelming amounts of legalese and non-standard phrasing. Nearly every sentence has the word “shall” in it, and it gives off the impression the lawyers were getting paid by the word. Going through it was an outright chore.

His bonus scheme is a little unusual, as he gets twice as big a payment for winning the SEC title game ($75,000) as he does for going to a non-BCS bowl ($37,500). His BCS game bonus is $100,000, meaning winning the SEC title game is actually worth $175,000 to him. Playing in the national title game is another $50,000 above the standard BCS bonus (so Michigan fans, you can now whine about him trying to get extra money by campaigning in 2006), but winning it all gets him $250,000.

Note that winning a non-BCS game doesn’t get him any more money than appearing in one does, and the BCS bonuses are non cumulative. Winning the national title gets him the $250,000, not $400,000. If you’re doing the math at home, his total bonus in 2006 for winning the SEC and national championships was $475,000.

So Urban, how did you spend your half million bonus after the title game? Image CC by Flickr user bobbyuggles.

The contract does acknowledge in a couple places that Meyer’s coaching services were in high demand (see quotes below), but UF didn’t throw in a clause requiring him to be a “loyal employee” like Alabama did with Saban. Rather, it gave him a $500,000 signing bonus and some of the largest longevity bonuses I’ve seen, culminating in $600,000 just for sticking around to end of the final season of the contract (2011).

About the only other unique thing worth mentioning is that Meyer officially is employed by the University Athletic Association, which from a legal standpoint is more independent than most athletic associations are. Granted, the UAA is inextricably aligned with the school and UF President Bernie Machen is the chairman of the board of the UAA, but it is a Direct Support Organization (definition here) and component of UF for accounting purposes only. That means they are able to get around certain parts of Florida law regarding state employees if they want to since he is legally an employee of the independent UAA Corporation and not the university. DSOs are explicitly allowed by Florida state law, so there are no loopholes at work here if you were wondering.

Selected Quotes:

Parties. Association is a Florida corporation nor for profit with its principal place of business in Gainesville, Florida. Urban Meyer is a resident of Gainesville, Florida.”

This is at the beginning and just illustrates the fact that Meyer is not an employee of the State of Florida but of a legally separate entity, the UAA. If it seems odd to see that it lists Meyer as being a Gainesville resident, since he was living in Utah when he agreed to take the UF job, don’t worry. The contract was signed in April of 2005, after he already relocated.

“The parties acknowledge that Coach’s skill, success and experience create a demand for his services at other universities and by professional football franchises.”

Great Odin’s raven! Does this mean that pro teams were pursuing Meyer as well, and UF beat out not just Notre Dame but the entire NFL as well? No, probably not; this is just the opening quote from the clause that gives him his signing bonus. I guess in case someone decides to audit something, they have a justification for giving him a signing bonus, something that no other SEC coach got as far as I can tell. But then, they’re all state employees and probably aren’t eligible to get one.

Sorry, but no third quote this time. It’s just too dry and boring to justify pulling anything else out. It’s not homerism; take a look at the thing and see if you get more than two pages through without succumbing to drowsiness.

Meyer asks Tim Tebow how to stay cool when “dot.com and email” gets on your case. Image CC by Flickr user bobbyuggles.