Auburn University’s win in college football’s national title game earned coach Gene Chizik $600,000 in contract bonuses, giving him $1.1 million in performance- related compensation for the season.
The 22-19 victory over the University of Oregon, fueled by two touchdown passes from Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton, capped a 14-0 season and was the fifth straight Bowl Championship Series national title for the Southeastern Conference. Chizik, whose base salary is $2.1 million, will earn at least $3.2 million next season, according to his contract, which Bloomberg News obtained through open-record laws.
Auburn won its first national championship since 1957 on Wes Byrum’s 19-yard field goal as time expired at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Tigers drove 73 yards for the winning field goal after Oregon scored a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie the game 19-19 with 2:33 left.
“These are historic moments,” Russ Campbell, Chizik’s agent, said in a telephone interview. “When coaches reach historic heights, you compensate them for it.”
Chizik, 49, signed his current contract in June 2009, taking less guaranteed money than six other SEC coaches, according to USA Today.
“To be the leader of great men is overwhelming for me,” Chizik said at his post-game news conference. “The national championship thing will set in I’m sure.”
Under the terms of his accord, he got a $750,000 loan to pay for the buyout of his contract at Iowa State University, his previous employer. That loan is forgiven $150,000 for every year Chizik coaches, and will be paid off entirely if he reaches the end of the five-year deal.
Chizik’s victory, his second bowl win in as many seasons on the Auburn sideline, triggered bonuses for the national title, a 14th win and a Top 5 finish in the final Associated Press poll. Chizik has already earned an additional $500,000 for a 13th win, an SEC title, a BCS bowl appearance and his first AP SEC Coach of the Year award, under terms of his contract.
Campbell said that Chizik’s bonus pays for itself in the exposure and national attention that a BCS title brings to any football program and its institution.
“The financial gains to the university are going to be long term and they’re going to far exceed what any of the coaches gain,” Campbell said.
Chizik also has provisions in his contract that give bonuses for academic success. For example, he will receive an additional $150,000 if the program reaches a 1,000 score in the annual Academic Progress Rate, a measurement created by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Auburn’s most recent ranking was 915. He would get $50,000 if the team reaches 950, the contract says.
The university didn’t respond to requests to interview Chizik about his contract.
Performance incentives have been a part of coaches contracts for more than 20 years, according to Colgate University Athletic Director David Roach, who had bonuses in his contract when he coached at the University of Tennessee from 1986-1990. Roach, also the president of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, said bonuses are meant to reward, not motivate.
“With or without the bonus, coaches should do a great job and want to win, but you also want to reward them for doing something extra special,” Roach said in a telephone interview.
Universities often use bonuses in lieu of more costly annual salary increases, Roach said.
“If you win a league title and the bonus is $50,000, it’s easier for me to pay you that money once than it is to increase your salary $50,000 for the next 20 years,” Roach said.
Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens, who was prepared to pay coach Chip Kelly $735,000 in total performance bonuses if the Ducks won, said paying coaches extra for a national title is worth it.
“That would be a very easy document to process, I can tell you that,” Mullens said.
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