Ford to Oklahoma State a Bad Move

"I took time in making the decision, and I have no doubt this is the right one. This is the right place for me".

That statement was made by Travis Ford, the head coach at UMass after turning down Providence to remain with the Minutemen. That was on Thursday April 10. On that same day, UMass Athletic Director John McCutcheon announced that Ford had agreed to a new five year contract.

"I was looking for an opportunity where I could go and win a national championship. I wanted my next move to be a place where I could raise my family and be there for a while. This was too good of an opportunity to pass by."

That was Travis Ford six days later after he abruptly walked out on Massachusetts and accepted the job at Oklahoma State.

The saga of Travis Ford is just another example of one of the greatest flaws in intercollegiate athletics. There is a serious lack of integrity. I'm not talking about personal integrity, although improvement there would be welcome. I'm talking about contract integrity which undermines the credibility of the game.

The lack of contract integrity is the biggest single reason why coaching salaries have exploded in the last two decades. Coaches get multi-year, multi-million dollar commitments from the school, yet few have significant buyout clauses should they choose to move on. And those that do, like Rich Rodriguez often end up threatening or actually engaging in litigation to keep from paying the price.

I'm not opposed to coaches being well paid, although I think schools should be more concerned about adequately funding their teams (11.7 scholarships for baseball?) than making their coaches independently wealthy. But it's appalling that the commitment is strictly one way. Florida, like many other schools does not have buyout clauses in their big money contracts. That makes no sense to me. If ALL schools would insist on substantial buyouts in exchange for long term contracts, salaries would stabilize throughout intercollegiate athletics.

I've heard the argument that you don't want to keep a coach who doesn't want to be somewhere, but that's a false argument. Most of the time when a coach at one school meets with another it's not because he (or she) is unhappy. It's because the other school is bigger, or at least its budget is. If that's the case fine, but the school he/she is under contract should be compensated for the switch.

A buyout clause didn't keep the Gators from hiring Billy Donovan or Urban Meyer, but it did serve as a deterrent to discussing the Gators' position with Bobby Petrino. There's no reason for a university that makes a substantial investment in a particular coach not to have a reciprocal commitment from that coach. Yes, it might make finding replacements a bit more challenging. But it also might cause more schools to think twice before making wholesale changes after a disappointing season.

Questions or comments? Contact's Larry Vettel

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