Monday, March 27, 2023

How could South Florida make sense for Ryan Odom? A contract review.

Update 3-28-2023: It is being reported by Hoops Weiss that Ryan Odom is going to be the next head coach at VCU. If that's the case then most of this post still applies. Mike Rhoades, who is apparently taking the head coaching job at Penn State, had a contract that was actually quite similar (if slightly more lucrative) to Gregory's when he signed it in 2019 (and it was extended in 2021). I've filed a FOIA for the contract post extension, but the pre-extension version is available here.

The head men's basketball coach opening at the University of South Florida has been one of the most interesting subjects of conversation this offseason. USF fired Brian Gregory after the Bulls went 14-18 (7-11 in the AAC) this past season. A number of different names have popped up since, like former Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey, and the most interesting to me: current Utah State head coach Ryan Odom.

Odom seems to have a good gig at Utah State. The architect of UMBC's upset over Virginia has led the Aggies for two seasons now. They were 18-16 (8-10 in the Mountain West) in his initial campaign and this season they broke through with a 26-9 record (13-4 in the MWC) and a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Why then has Odom's name popped up at USF? One potential reason is that he's much more familiar with the southern part of the United States than out west. Odom was a graduate assistant at South Florida in 1996-97 and spent his entire career in and around the DC/Virginia/Carolinas area before taking the head gig at Utah State.

The other potential reason is what an American Athletic Conference program like USF can offer in compensation versus a Mountain West program like USU. To delve deeper into that issue I requested Odom's current contract with USU and Gregory's former contract with USF. USU responded quickly (you can see it here). USF is still working on my request but The Tampa Bay Times posted a copy of Gregory's contract when he signed a three-year extension in October of 2021. (Update: USF did provide me with my own copy of the same contract on March 27.) With the caveat that I'm neither an agent nor a lawyer, here are some of the differences I see between the two.

Base Compensation:

Odom makes a base salary of $500,000 at Utah State. Gregory's contract called for $400,000 annually. But base compensation never tells the story when it comes to coaching contracts.

Media Compensation:

The school also pays coaches for fundraising, promotional, and media appearances. This is often where the bigger chunk of annual compensation is found in head coach contracts. That's definitely the case for Gregory, who was set to make $1,281,250 for the period from April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022. While that number was to have come down to $730,000 for the year starting April 1, 2022, it was still more than double what Odom is making at $300,000 per year.




The structure of the bonuses for both Odom and Gregory are pretty similar. There are some minor differences. The most fun one is that Gregory only received $1,000 for a regular season victory over the University of Central Florida (UCF) whereas Odom receives $5,000 if he beats BYU or Utah (of course he's got to get the opportunity to play them first).



In addition to compensation, a head coach also has the ability to negotiate for better resources for the program from the school, including how much his assistant coaches are paid. This also reveals a disparity between what is available at USU vs. USF.

Assistant Coach Pool:

Odom's contract sets a salary pool of $530,000 for assistant coaches along with an additional $150,000 for other operations and administrative positions. That's $680,000 total, though the clause does also note that the pool will be reviewed on an annual basis.

Gregory's contract called for a consistently growing pool that started at his hiring at more than USU's pool. The past year Gregory had an assistant coaching pool of $850,000 (or ~$170,000 more than Odom).

Termination by School:

Here it appears Odom had a better deal. Gregory's deal includes 20 weeks of his base salary as a buyout whereas USU would owe Odom 75% of his combined base salary and media compensation remaining on the agreement. It's worth noting though that this particular clause definitely represents some of the differences in leverage when Gregory and Odom signed their particular agreements.


Termination by Coach:

Odom's buyout is not insignificant. If his contract is terminated in Year 3 or thereafter, which it looks like would be the case, Odom would have to pay 35% of the Cumulative Remaining Salary, which by my math is approximately $840,000. If Gregory were still employed by USF on April 1, 2023 and had wanted to terminate his agreement he would owe the school $750,000. It's worth noting that coaches often include clauses in their contracts that have their new employers pay their buyout.


So there are a few potential reasons it seems why the USF job could be attractive to Odom. It would mean returning to an area of the country he's familiar recruiting and living in. It would probably mean an increase in compensation from $800,000 to at least in the neighborhood of around $1.1 million plus. And it would likely give him a larger pool for his assistant coaches. All of these are good incentives.

Of course, taking the South Florida job would also come with downsides. Where Odom took the Utah State job he took over a perennial NCAA Tournament program from Craig Smith. The Bulls haven't made the NCAA Tournament since the 2011-12 season under Stan Heath. The school was still playing in Big East back then. The American Athletic Conference is a competitive league that is losing Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF but also bringing in a number of strong programs from Conference USA. Building a competitive basketball program at USF won't be easy.

But it's a challenge someone is going to be willing to take on.

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