Compensation may go beyond money

June, 24, 2013

The Clippers and Celtics are in the process of completing an unprecedented deal, which involves trading a coach and reworking his contract in exchange for a future first-round NBA draft pick.

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Doc Rivers
Spruce Derden/USA TODAY SportsWill Doc Rivers' NBA deal affect how athletic directors handle coaches' contracts in college?

Few coaches in the NBA are as coveted as Boston's Doc Rivers.

But what are the chances that athletic directors could attempt to receive legitimate compensation, outside of money, for a coach leaving a college program in the middle of his deal?

Well, it has already happened, and it may continue, depending on the program.

Putting in hefty buyouts are a deterrent and have prevented a number of coaches from moving, or at the very least caused courts to settle the dispute. Some ADs, like NC State athletic director Debbie Yow, have been able to add heavy buyouts to prevent the poaching. Some schools, like West Virginia, had them in and have been vigilant about coaches paying for leaving.

And in a unique move that adds to compensation, some athletic directors have attempted to put game commitments into contracts. If a coach leaves for another school, the program he's going to would have to schedule the coach's previous school. Western Kentucky did this when Dennis Felton left for Georgia, and those two programs began a four-year home-and-home series.

In light of Rivers, could this be a trend? Can schools receive more than money when a coach leaves while under contract?

"More and more schools are putting language in contracts concerning games,'' said Creighton athletic director Bruce Rasmussen. "For instance, you could have Bradley put in that if the coach were to go to a BCS school, then that school would have to play Bradley in a home-and-home. Obviously, many schools are putting buyout language in coaching contracts that the acquiring school has to pay. I think you will see this more frequently.''

Rivers had a noncompete clause in his contract, and the Celtics had the right to block Rivers from just walking away from his deal and signing to coach another team. The Celtics wanted compensation if Rivers wasn't going to be their coach and got a future player out of the deal with the draft pick.

The NCAA doesn't have a say in the contracts. But going forward, could more schools attempt to put in safety nets to receive more when a coach leaves?

"I have seen it written in contracts, and I have written in some where a coach agrees to a home-and-home if they leave for another school,'' said New Mexico athletic director Paul Krebs. "[Steve] Alford said he would play home-and-home when he was leaving. Doubt he will honor it. It's not in his contract.''

Alford isn't going to play his best friend, new New Mexico coach Craig Neal, even if the Lobos wanted -- as they should -- a home-and-home with UCLA. But he would be forced to if it was written into a contract.

Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips said he could envision stronger restrictive language in assistant coaching contracts going forward. And additional compensation for playing football or basketball games, especially between mid- to high majors, could be done.

Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne said it could be included in negotiations too.

"I don't think ideas like that are far-fetched, but one also has to think of another institution's ability to deliver,'' said Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione. "It sure could be seen as a strong deterrent.''

One coach's agent said he has seen the need for midlevel schools to put that clause (playing a game against a higher-level school) in the contract if the coach leaves. But whether or not it will become commonplace at a high-major level is still to be determined.

"The model is really set up as a straight buyout or termination by the coach as all financial,'' said Missouri athletic director Mike Alden. "Everything that I've seen has really been based on a penalty to be paid if the coach leaves and/or has been recruited. Could you start including a game obligation? I guess, but there would be a ton of things to consider. Is it within the same conference? BCS or non-BCS? You'd have to find a way to tie it to the coach. If you leave me, you owe me X, and the hiring school would have to also give me a home game within 14 months or something like that. I haven't seen contracts written like that, but you could try to put it together. It is an interesting/intriguing concept.''

The Rivers NBA deal could set a precedent. Or it could be a fluke.

Colleges could try to copy it. Or choose to ignore it.

Nothing seems out of reach at this point.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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