Two words in his employment contract with Bowling Green State University entitle Dave Clawson to a five-figure bonus: The team.
Clawson, who resigned this month to accept the same position at Wake Forest, triggered a $10,000 incentive for leading the Falcons to a bowl game even though he never stepped foot in Detroit on Thursday for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Clawson’s contract states he earns a bonus “if the team” appears in a bowl. There is no condition requiring Clawson’s participation in the game.
’Tis the season for parsing language, as university legal departments comb through contracts to determine what bonuses they are obligated to dole out to departed coaches.
Boise State’s Bryan Harsin forfeited $25,000 this month at his former school, Arkansas State, where his bowl bonus was conditioned on “preparing the team for and coaching in an NCAA bowl game.” Arkansas State and interim coach John Thompson take on Ball State in the Jan. 5 GoDaddy Bowl.
Washington’s Chris Petersen left $35,000 on the table at Boise State, where his bowl bonus is contingent on his employment at the time the game is played. Led by interim coach Bob Gregory, Boise State lost 38-23 to Oregon State in Tuesday’s Hawaii Bowl.
Spokesmen at Arkansas State and Boise State confirmed their schools will not pay bowl bonuses to their former coaches.
“The typical provision is a bonus for a bowl game is conditioned on the coach’s appearance in the game,” said Bennett Speyer, a Toledo-based sports attorney who represents roughly 20 college football coaches. “If that doesn’t occur during the term of the employment agreement, they wouldn’t be entitled to the bonus.”
Unless, of course, the coach’s contract states otherwise.
A Washington spokesman confirmed the school will honor Steve Sarkisian’s $150,000 bowl bonus despite Sarkisian leaving to coach Southern California. That hefty payout should lessen the pain of the $1.5 million Sarkisian must give Washington for leaving.
Sarkisian, like Clawson, was saved by language tying the bowl appearance to the team.
“If a contract reads you’ll receive a bonus for a team being selected for a bowl game, it’s different than appearing,” Speyer said.
Interim Washington coach Marques Tuiasosopo received $50,000 for coaching the team in Friday’s Fight Hunger Bowl win over BYU, according to a school spokesman.
Gregory, the Boise State interim coach, received $15,000. Thompson, Arkansas State’s stand-in, is owed the state line item maximum for an interim head coach. Thompson, who served this season as defensive coordinator, will also receive bowl bonuses tied to the contract he signed as an assistant.
BGSU athletic director Chris Kingston said he is “evaluating the opportunity” to compensate Adam Scheier for his duties as the team’s interim coach.
The Falcons fell to Pittsburgh 30-27 on Thursday in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, ending the year with a 10-4 record. Had BG won, according to Kingston, the school would not have been on the hook for the $5,000 Clawson was due for a bowl win.
Toledo financial advisor Mike Wilcox, whose clients includes several college coaches, including Clawson, said he will encourage Clawson to donate some of his bonus to the university’s athletic department.
Sacrificing a slice from $10,000 would register a minor hit for Clawson, whose salary at Wake Forest is believed to dwarf the $400,000 he made annually at Bowling Green.
Wake Forest, a private institution in the Atlantic Coast Conference, is not legally required to divulge employee salaries, but the man Clawson replaced, Jim Grobe, reportedly earned $2.25 million annually.
Southern California, a private institution, declined to discuss its compensation plan for interim coach Clay Helton. Helton served as USC’s third coach of the season in a 45-20 win over Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
A rare case involving bonus pay occurred two years ago at the University of Toledo. Matt Campbell, whom the school appointed full-time coach after Tim Beckman left for Illinois, inherited the bowl incentives which Beckman forfeited.
Campbell, who served that regular season as Toledo’s offensive coordinator, earned $20,000 for leading the team in the Military Bowl, and an additional $30,000 for the Rockets’ win over Air Force.
“It was my decision that he received that bonus, and rightfully so, in my opinion,” Toledo athletic director Mike O’Brien said.
Perhaps no school in America draws up a tighter contract than Kent State. Former Golden Flashes coach Darrell Hazell forfeited all of his bonuses — not just bowl bonuses — when he left after the 2012 season for Purdue.
Hazell, the Mid-American Conference coach of the year, guided Kent to the East division title and the program’s first bowl appearance in 40 years.
He lost at least $20,000 in bonuses by leaving. Hazell also was required to pay $750,000 to get out of his contract, which Purdue agreed to cover provided Hazell meets the conditions of his contract.
For reasons that make no monetary sense, Hazell stayed on to coach Kent State in the Jan. 6 GoDaddy.com Bowl — a 17-13 loss to Arkansas State.
Hazell declined an interview through a Purdue spokesman, citing a family vacation.
Hazell’s replacement at Kent State, Paul Haynes, has a similar provision in his contract in which he’ll renounce all bonuses earned if he resigns.
“I have seen that, but I’ve never agreed to it,” said Speyer, the Toledo attorney. “I try to make sure any bonus that is earned is still paid.”