The SEC West, whose roster includes Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, is generally regarded as college football’s toughest division.
The MW West, whose roster includes Fresno State, San Diego State, San Jose State, Nevada, UNLV and Hawaii, isn’t anywhere close.
Keep that in mind as you read the bonus clauses contained within the five-year contract that Fresno State gave Jeff Tedford to turn around its woebegone football program.
If Alabama wins its Southeastern Conference division and plays for the SEC championship, Nick Saban gets a $75,000 bonus. If the Crimson Tide wins the SEC title, the bonus increases to $125,000.
If Fresno State wins its Mountain West Conference division and plays for the MW championship, Tedford gets a $150,000 bonus. If the Bulldogs win the MW title, the bonus increases to $250,000.
No, that’s not a mistype. Tedford’s bonuses for winning division and conference titles in the MW are twice as large as Saban’s in the SEC.
There’s more. If Saban is named SEC Coach of the Year, he gets an extra $25,000. Tedford gets $50,000 for the same honor in the MW.
Tedford also has considerably larger bonuses than Saban for going to bowl games and winning them. And unlike Alabama’s five-time national champion coach, Tedford also gets a “win” bonus: $100,000 for a six-win season and increasing by $50,000 every step for wins seven, eight, nine and 10.
Comparing Tedford’s recently inked contract with Saban’s can only go so far. Primarily because the $6.93 million in base salary Alabama paid Saban last season dwarfs the $1.58 million base that Fresno State owes Tedford annually through 2021.
But it’s still a good way to illustrate which side had the leverage during negotiations between Fresno State and Tedford’s agent, Tim Younger, and which side felt the squeeze.
From the moment the Bulldogs dismissed Tim DeRuyter midseason, Tedford became athletic director Jim Bartko’s No. 1 choice as a successor. The 2½-week coaching search felt like a mere formality, if not a foregone conclusion.
Tedford may end up being the absolute right choice. I certainly like the staff he’s assembled, and the early returns on recruiting were very encouraging. But in terms of contract negotiations, Fresno State wasn’t exactly operating from a position of strength.
At least not as much as it should’ve been considering the lengthy gap since Tedford’s last college head-coaching gig.
Had Bartko not been able to land Tedford and settled for some retread with no connection to the university or an unproven assistant, it wouldn’t have reflected well on him. Especially with the athletic department desperate for donor support to not only pay the next head coach but also pony up for Bulldog Stadium renovations.
You can bet Younger, who also represents Derek Carr, understood that dynamic and took full advantage.
Tedford’s base salary is only slightly more than what Fresno State was paying DeRuyter. (Let’s not forget DeRuyter is still owed a nice chunk of change – I’m sure his accountant won’t.) It also places Tedford at the top of the MW, for 2017, with Colorado State’s Mike Bobo and Boise State’s Bryan Harsin poised to move slightly ahead in coming years.
But neither of those two has a contract whose value comes close to Tedford’s if the former Bulldogs quarterback returns his alma mater to respectability.
Which is precisely what Tedford was hired to do coming on the heels of 1-11.
Remember all those 8-5 seasons under Pat Hill, the ones Fresno State fans grew so weary of? Let’s use one as an example. Let’s say in Year 2 or 3 of his rebuild, Tedford steers the Bulldogs to a seven-win regular season. Let’s say they lose the MW championship to Boise State (dang blue turf) but beat some AAC team in the Hawaii Bowl.
How much would Tedford be due in that event? By my calculations, $2,450,000. (That’s $1,580,000 in base salary, plus $870,000 in bonuses. I assumed the team’s APR score, GPA and graduation rate remain at current standards.)
Neither Bobo nor Harsin nor hardly any head coach in the so-called Group of Five can get anywhere close to that figure.
That $2,450,000 I came up with doesn’t even include the attendance bonus. If paid attendance (not including student tickets and comps) at Bulldog Stadium returns to near 2015 levels, Tedford pockets an extra $200,000. If it goes up another 3,667 per game, he pockets $300,000.
We’re now well in excess of $2.6 million, and I haven’t even mentioned the roll-over stipulation. If the Bulldogs notch seven wins in 2017 or ’18 or eight wins in any season thereafter, one year gets added to the contract at a rate equal to 105 percent of Tedford’s base salary and bonuses.
This can happen a maximum of three times, so what was originally a five-year deal could potentially become eight.
Some will look at this contract and bash Fresno State for giving away the farm to someone who may not have been in high demand elsewhere. Others will credit both sides for structuring an incentive-heavy deal that rewards the head coach for winning and generating excitement.
The truth is TBD. All anyone can say for certain is that if Tedford succeeds in turning around the Bulldogs, Fresno State will be shelling out for that success at every step. Better hope the revenues keep pace.