When UConn defeated Michigan State on Sunday, the fans at Madison Square Garden chanted the name of Huskies’ second-year coach, Kevin Ollie. This underscores the fact that college athletic teams are often associated with their head coach. For colleges, the success of one of their coaches reinforces the need to have entered into contracts that provide the schools with the ability to retain the coach when other schools start calling.
1. Get the Entire Agreement in Writing. Any informal agreement outside the four corners of the contract is unlikely to have any binding effect. If it is important, it should be in the contract. See Jeff Jagodzinski and Boston College.
2. Include a permission to contact clause. Rather than be blindsided by news that your coach is leaving, include a clause requiring the coach to ask and receive permission to speak with other schools. Wisconsin could have used such a clause with Bret Bielema.
3. Consider a Bonus Instead of a Buyout Clause. Buyout clauses are a form of negative reinforcement, can be challenged in a court of law as punitive and are often paid by the coach’s news school (or its boosters) upon the coach’s departure. Consider a bonus that operates like a roster bonus in professional sports.
4. Set a Precedent. When a coach leaves while under contract, be willing to take the coach to court to enforce the school’s rights. Marist took this route a few years ago and won their case (although Marist was awarded no damages). Despite this somewhat hollow victory, coaches and agents dealing with Marist surely took notice.