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Contract extensions should be examined more closely

Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 00:10

While the wrath of irate fans directed toward Skip Holtz may not be fully warranted, it brings into question the system of granting lengthy contract extensions in a field of constant change and complex interests.

Whether or not Holtz deserves to be fired — as Facebook pages and self-proclaimed armchair sports gurus have suggested — is somewhat of a moot point, particularly after he was granted a five-year extension this summer that makes the cost of “firing” him add up to $2.5 million.

Athletics Director Doug Woolard defended the decision to extend Holtz’s contract on Tuesday, citing a need for “stability.”

But not before he received a three-year contract extension that would tie his own bonuses to performance bonuses that the coaches receive.

According to a Tampa Bay Times article, Woolard signed a contract extension on June 22 that allows him to receive “incentive payments in equal and cumulative amounts to the performance incentives which are earned and paid to the head coaches.”

The next day, Woolard signed five-year extensions for Holtz and men’s basketball coach Stan Heath with hefty bonuses, and on June 25 these were set in place with USF President Judy Genshaft’s co-signature.

Holtz’s incentives on his new contract doubled, giving him — and thereby Woolard — the potential to earn up to an extra $200,000 if the team wins a Big East title, $400,000 if the Bulls play in the national championship, $500,000 if they win the national championship and a $25,000 bonus for making a bowl game. Heath’s contract allows himself and Woolard to each earn an additional $100,000 if the team wins the Big East regular season title, $100,000 for winning the Big East Tournament, $50,000 for a NCAA Tournament berth, $25,000 for each NCAA win and $10,000 for a National Invitational Tournament berth.

While few wins thus far in the football season have reaped little of these bonuses, the very system of tying these extended contracts together in binding agreements creates conflicts of interest — with Woolard’s bonuses tied to coaches’ bonuses — that are not in the best interest of the Athletics Department.

It would seem that the tied benefits would push better performance, but it could also lead to less willingness to breach such a contract.

Granted, while the extensions have provided Woolard with the peace of mind of having “stability,” and Woolard’s new contract has allowed Genshaft “to demonstrate (her) intent and desire for success,” according to the offer letter she sent Woolard, the contracts should allow for greater flexibility and fewer conflicting interests.

Holtz could be the best football coach in history and Woolard could be the best athletic director in history, but the process of financially connecting interests and performance raises ethical questions that distract from the spirit of the real games being played.

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