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Coaching And Admin Contract Extensions: Were These A Good Idea?

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We got no problem with waiting until the end of the season to evaluate things, but that doesn't mean you can't clearly define expectations now. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
We got no problem with waiting until the end of the season to evaluate things, but that doesn't mean you can't clearly define expectations now. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

As reported now in multiple places but only after someone blabbed to Greg Auman so he could FOIA it down, when Stan Heath and Skip Holtz signed their extensions this summer, so did Doug Woolard. Woolard received a three-year add on that keeps his salary where it is currently, but adds on the ability to earn a match to the incentives all of his head coaches receive. Some of these are significant, with $50k for an NCAA men's basketball appearance, or $400k for a BCS Title Game (which obviously isn't happening). But reasonable bonuses include winning the Big East in football ($200k), a Top 10 poll finish ($100k), or Holtz being named Big East Coach of the Year ($50k). So in essence these are all doubled as Woolard as well as the respective head coach is eligible to earn all of them.

The extensions for Holtz, Heath, and Woolard were all signed about the same time, and though there was a press release from USF Athletics about the coaches there was no mention of Doug's extension. But with or without the publicity, the message is clear: Doug has his guys in the two revenue sports, and he's going to ride with them.

During Woolard's time here, he's always been extremely consistent when asked for comment in the middle of a season regarding the status of a head coach or team. "We evaluate all coaches at the end of the season," has been a constant refrain during his tenure. In fact I think the only exception was just before Lelo Prado's contract was about to run out in 2011, and he said before the end of the baseball season that Prado would be given an extension despite the relative lack of success on the diamond so far.

I totally agree with this policy. You don't evaluate teams in the middle of a year as great changes can happen during a season. But I think now that we're aware that Woolard was given an extension, it's fair to ask questions about what the consequences of this season should be. If we fail to make a bowl game, or even be a .500 team, how does that hurt our credibility with our fanbase? As USF has shown before it certainly is not not afraid to shout accomplishments from the rooftops in pretty crass fashion. But how they deal with the shortcomings and failures is just as important. And after three games, it looks like we might have a lot of those in 2012. Again.

Remember this is a football team with a 4-year starting quarterback and 24 seniors in all. If you can't win with this group against a pretty favorable schedule... when exactly do you plan on competing for those conference championships that are the stated goal of the program? All programs ebb and flow based on recruiting cycles and coaching changes, but this is third year of Skip Holtz's tenure. This is generally when successful coaches start seeing results. And it's completely fair for fans and stakeholders to ask what reasonable expectations should be for this program at this stage of its development.

Bulls fans need to be aware that due to the recent contracts issued, we're all-in with the current administration and coaching staffs because we can't afford not to be. Skip earns $2 million per year, before bonuses, until 2017. His original contract was for slightly less per year, and through 2014. So after two years of 13-12, and coming off a campaign where he was 5-7 overall and 1-6 in a pretty lousy Big East, he earned a three-year extension with a raise and better bonuses. When you sign a coach with Holtz's record to that extension, it shows you truly believe in him and what he's doing. It shows you think results on the field are right around the corner.

But what happens if you're wrong? How much does it set back the program? And combine the owed contracts with the debt service due to all the new facilities (we've public records requested Athletics to give us their budget, but just did so we'll give them a few days here), and what is a likely a sharp drop in ticket sales next season due to no FSU game (check StubHub for any non-FSU game if you want to see how many people bought season tickets just for the Seminoles and are dumping the rest)... how big a hole could we be digging here?

As we've discussed here before, what USF has always sold is the promise and potential of the program. "The fastest-rising program in college football history." Well this year that program is now old enough to drive a car. And that promise and potential that we've been selling for decades now is becoming a national punch line. You can only get by on promise for so long, eventually you have to show results. Ask Groupon shareholders; at some point, you've got to deliver.

To be fair there's no way you can question the extension of Stan Heath. You pull off a miracle like get this basketball program to the NCAA Tournament, and you deserve a big raise and extension. Even if Heath underperforms for a while (and losing Waverly Austin means that might be the case), at under $1.2 million a year in base salary he's still a bargain. However there's an obvious difference between men's basketball and football: Heath won before he got his big money. But Skip got paid on potential.

And Bulls fans need to hope he delivers on it. Because otherwise we might be in a heap of trouble for quite a while.