Now that bowl season has ended many assistant coaches are receiving new deals. In the last couple of weeks Jim Leavitt, Oregon’s new defensive coordinator, signed a 4-year deal worth $1.15 million annually. In addition Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown agreed to a 5-year deal worth $1.4 million annually. Later on another member of Jim Harbaugh’s staff, offensive coordinator Tim Drevno, signed a multiyear contract, a 5-year deal worth $1 million annually.
With staff continuity being key for success, more athletic departments are not just increasing salaries but ensuring that assistants, like head coaches, have multiyear deals. While contracts bring stability there is also risk involved. As revenue grows and salaries increase coaches are constantly being targeted by other universities. With that said, will non-compete clauses become the norm in assistant coaches contracts?
In football the turnover rate for assistant coaches is very high and maintaining a staff is important. One of the main reasons Arkansas head coach Brett Bielema left Wisconsin was because he couldn’t pay his assistants what he considered market value. Bielema lost six assistants prior to the 2012 season because of compensation issues. Wisconsin despite being a regular in the Rose Bowl and a yearly contender for the Big Ten title had a coaching staff that was near the bottom of the conference in compensation. Fast forward to today and Bielema along with Arkansas AD Jeff Long have found innovative ways to increase staff continuity and limit attrition with a combination of compensation, multiyear deals, and non-compete clauses. In an article done by SEC Country, Bielema gave a quality explanation why he chose to utilize the clause and the rationale behind it.
“The way we handle the language and verbiage is, if I’m a DBs coach, I can still go be a coordinator somewhere. But if you’re a coordinator you can’t go somewhere else to become a coordinator. You can only go to become a head coach. I think it has a lot of validity to it because there is a lot of things that you learn that can be very valuable in the next program over, especially within your league.” –Bret Bielema
During the coaching carousel, it’s not uncommon to see assistant coaches moving from schools within their conference. The pressure to win is high and schools that play each other regularly are able to assess the coaches at rival institutions and poach them for higher pay in the offseason. While a promotion is one thing, a lateral move is another. This was the case with Jim Leavitt, formerly the defensive coordinator at the University of Colorado. Even though he nearly doubled his salary, he made a move within the conference. If CU had implemented a non-compete clause Leavitt would have either stayed at or taken a position in another conference. While not every situation calls for the clause, if you’re a staff with high-profile assistants, negotiating or at least discussing non-compete clauses is a way to ensure universities are protected.
Ronnie Burton Jr
Ronnie Burton Jr., is an emerging professional within collegiate athletics and higher education. Prior to writing for CollegeAD Ronnie worked in administrative and coaching positions at California Lutheran University, Arizona State, and Michigan State. A 2015 graduate of Arizona State’s Masters in Sports Law and Business Program he looks to be an asset for organizations making decisions in the areas of regulation and revenue generation. A former college baseball player, Ronnie’s passions reside at the intersection of higher education and athletics.