Jimbo Fisher has one of the largest fully guaranteed contracts in college football, with eight years and $76.8 million remaining on the deal he signed just two years ago. And as the Aggies sit at 4-3, less than a year removed from finishing 5-7 in 2022, his job security has become a popular talking point throughout college football.
Many assume that the massive buyout would preclude the Aggies from making a coaching change any time soon. And the total dollar amount would indeed be unprecedented. But then again, virtually all of the dollar figures related to college football in recent years have been unprecedented.
If push comes to shove, and A&M does indeed decide that they want to move on from Jimbo Fisher, I don’t think the buyout would be nearly the obstacle that it’s reported to be. I don’t say that from the “A&M donors have oil money so the dollar figure doesn’t matter” perspective either, because dollars absolutely matter. Even the richest of us out there don’t want to part with our money unnecessarily. But when you break down the nuts and bolts of Jimbo Fisher’s buyout, waiting for years doesn’t give all that much financial benefit, and could in fact end up doing you more harm than good in the long run.
How is the buyout actually structured?
While the fact that Fisher’s contract is 100% guaranteed is far from A&M-friendly, the way the buyout works would allow the Aggies more flexibility than at first glance. Only 20% of the buyout is due within 60 days of termination, with the remaining balance paid out annually through 2031. That means that if he was fired after this season, A&M would only owe Fisher $19.2 million immediately. They would then pay him $7.2 million annually for the next eight seasons.
How does that buyout change by year?
- Fired after 2023 season: $19.2 million within 60 days, $7.2 million/year for 8 years
- Fired after 2024 season: $16.9 million within 60 days, $7.2 million/year for 7 years
- Fired after 2025 season: $14.5 million within 60 days, $7.3 million/year for 6 years
- Fired after 2026 season: $12.2 million within 60 days, $7.3 million/year for 5 years
- Fired after 2027 season: $9.8 million within 60 days, $7.4 million/year for 4 years
- Fired after 2028 season: $7.4 million within 60 days, $7.4 million/year for 3 years
- Fired after 2029 season: $5 million within 60 days, $7.4 million/year for 2 years
- Fired after 2030 season: $2.5 million within 60 days, $7.5 million/year for 1 year
Waiting too long could cost more than making a move too soon
There’s no way around it, Fisher’s buyout at this moment is massive, but it will also be massive in 2024....and 2025...and 2026. It’s certainly not an enviable position to be in, but for A&M, keeping a coach around for years longer than they’d like solely to lessen the buyout blow could ultimately do more harm than good, and I don’t just mean from a competitive standpoint.
Like many universities, Texas A&M’s football program is the front porch of the university. For many former students, it’s the main reason they come back, and for many prospective students, it’s how they first become aware of the school itself. The cashflow from football also props up countless local businesses, and more importantly, many other sports at Texas A&M. Nearly 88% of the A&M athletic department’s ticket revenue comes from football, as does 44% of total revenue.
A mediocre football team causes anger, but a bad one can lead to something much worse: apathy. Attendance declines, recruiting dwindles, TV ratings go down, and donations dry up. That has the potential to due harm not just to the football program, but cause a tightening of the belt across the entire athletic program whose ripple effect could be felt for years, if not longer.
The best way to have a successful athletic program is to spend money: money spent on coaches, on facilities, on recruiting. And the best way to get that money is a great college football program.
What would the true cost of a coaching change really be?
Assume that the money remaining on Jimbo Fisher’s contract is a sunk cost. No matter when you fire him, you’re going to owe him that money. So the only real savings you achieve are by keeping him around are by not ALSO paying another head coach each on top of what you already owe Jimbo. Hypothetically, that means that the difference between firing Fisher now and waiting another two years is whatever you would have to pay that new coach in 2024 and 2025. Let’s say that would be in the range of $15-20 million dollars.
If that $15-20 million rejuvenated your football program and set it up for long-term success, avoiding a total cratering of the program that could take much longer to recover from, I think most would agree that would be a worthwhile investment. In fact, if you make the right hire this time around, there’s a very real chance that the positive effects of the hire could pay for that upfront cost entirely, and then some.
So what will happen?
This article is not me advocating for firing Jimbo. There are still games to be played this season, and I do not think anyone within the A&M athletic department has made up their mind one way or another. There are scenarios where this team wins four of their last five (or all of their last five) games, Jimbo’s job is safe, and they enter 2024 with the most offseason momentum they’ve had in a while.
But there are also scenarios where this team continues to underachieve, loses games they shouldn’t, and hard decisions need to be made. If that happens, and if decision-makers come to the conclusion that Fisher is not the person to lead this Texas A&M team, I don’t think the buyout stands in their way of doing what’s in the long-term best interest of this football program.
How big of a barrier do you think the buyout would be to firing Jimbo Fisher this year?
This poll is closed
Not a barrier at all
A tough pill to swallow but I think we’d do it
No way they pay that buyout this year