Petrino's Contract Protects Against SEC West

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino signed a contract in early September that would make it difficult for him to leave the Razorbacks for another job, particularly one in the Southeastern Conference's West Division.

Petrino's contract includes a non-compete clause that ends Dec. 31, 2012, stating that he "shall not seek or accept employment in any coaching capacity" with another SEC West school. The university could sue if he breaks the clause.

Petrino's seven-year deal also contains a significant buyout that would require him to pay the university a large sum should he take another coaching job before his term ends on Dec. 31, 2014.

The Morning News obtained a copy of Petrino's finalized contract on Monday evening through a Freedom of Information Act request.

According to the contract, Petrino would be required to pay the university approximately $6.75 million if he accepted another job after Jan. 1. That buyout, which decreases after each season, was at roughly $8.75 million during Petrino's first season with the Razorbacks.

Auburn officials were rumored last week to be interested in speaking with Petrino about the possibility of him replacing Tommy Tuberville, who resigned under pressure after 10 seasons with the Tigers.

Petrino served as Auburn's offensive coordinator in 2002 and secretly interviewed a year later to replace Tuberville as the school's coach.

Both Petrino and his attorney, Russ Campbell, said last week that he has no interest in the Auburn job. His contract would make it particularly tough for him to leave for another SEC West school.

"People certainly test the parameters of what's called a non-compete clause. But that was put in there with the express purpose of avoiding these kinds of situations where people speculate and put the rumors out there," Campbell told The Morning News last week.

"There's nothing to this. That clause was put in there for a reason, and we'll just leave it at that."

The non-compete clause in Petrino's contract expires Dec. 31, 2012, meaning he'd be free to accept a coaching job at another SEC West school during the final two years of his deal from 2013-14. He'd still be forced to pay a buyout, though.

Before he was hired as Houston Nutt's replacement at Arkansas on Dec. 11, 2007, Petrino agreed to a five-year deal worth $2.85 million annually. He didn't sign a finalized contract until nine months later.

Arkansas associate general counsel Scott Varady said Monday evening that it's not unusual for a contract negotiation to last "an extended period of time" before both parties are satisfied.

"I think we diligently worked on this from the months in which we had an initial agreement until this (contract) was finalized," Varady said. "There was never a time when we just let this go dormant."

In the months before a contract was signed, Petrino was working under the terms of a nine-page agreement he had with the university. But there are some noticeable changes between that deal and the one that's spelled out in the 31-page contract he signed Sept. 5.

Petrino's original five-year deal was extended in the contract to seven years, ending Dec. 31, 2014. The cost of his buyout was also changed significantly in the contract.

The initial agreement stated that Petrino must pay $2.85 million to Arkansas if he decided to leave for a college or NFL coaching job during his first four years with the Razorbacks.

In the contract, though, the terms of his buyout start at $8.75 million in his first season at Arkansas and go to $3.5 million by his fourth year. The university would be required to pay Petrino that same amount if it decided to fire him during that same period.

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