USF violated state law, according to a report by Florida’s auditor general.
In an effort to become a leader in college athletics, the university has spent years hiring high profile coaches in hopes of resuscitating mediocre teams.
However, many of those hires came with contracts that call for more compensation than Florida legally allows if the individual is fired. For instance, in 2014 when Athletic Director Doug Woolard “retired,” he was paid $610,927 in severance pay.
This was not only more than $100,000 over his annual salary, it also exceeded the 20-week legal limit set by Florida state law by a margin of $415,169.
Though Woolard was replaced due to “wide-ranging dissatisfaction” with both the USF’s football and men’s basketball programs, he was allowed to remain at the school until 2015, when his contract expired.
Every college wants a flourishing athletics program, but it’s obvious USF’s current method of hiring coaches is not working. According to athleticbusiness.com, USF spent nearly $7 million on legal settlement and contract buyouts for three former coaches: Jim Leavitt, Skip Holtz and Stan Heath.
Holtz was terminated five short months after receiving a contract extension. Woolard explained that other universities were pursuing Holtz and thus it was essential to bind him to USF. Then he quickly changed his mind and fired him, at great cost to the school.
Last year, current football coach Willie Taggart began the journey to making Bulls football something the school can be proud of. 2015 ended with an 8-5 record, the best season the team has had since 2010.
School spirit is high and USF is slowly coming back on sports fans’ radars.
But at what cost?
One good season does not guarantee Taggart will be successful in the future, and if USF decides to let him go, its track record has proven it will be costly to the school.
However, pointing the finger solely at USF would be hypocritical. Colleges across the country are dishing out outrageous funds to secure competent coaches.
The logic behind the hiring process of coaches defies reason. Players are recruited based off of what they’ve accomplished, the skills they have demonstrated time and time again on the field.
Coaches, however, are signed based off of what they will hopefully do. As soon as a coach has one semi-successful season, he’s offered a contract extension to prevent other schools from snatching him up.
One strong season does not a successful coach make. Universities need to stop throwing funds at men and women who have yet to prove their worth.
Colleges need to alter the way they dish out contracts and be hesitant to throw extensions at every coach able to scrape together a handful of wins.
It’s obvious universities are going to continue to direct their focus towards athletics, but unless something changes, there will continue to be thousands of dollars wasted every year on someone the university is not even utilizing.
While USF continues to claim the payout was simply a misunderstanding, one thing is abundantly clear: the hiring system for athletics is flawed and will continue to plague universities until a more realistic method is utilized to secure coaches.
Breanne Williams is a junior majoring in mass communications.