Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Buzz Williams Contract Extension

Buzz Williams finally got a chance to be a head coach at the University of New Orleans for the 2006-07 season after working as an assistant coach for more than 15 years*. In what can only be characterized as a lackluster campaign, Williams compiled a 14–17 record including a 7–9 record in the lowly Sun Belt Conference in his first season as head coach of the University of New Orleans for the 2006-07 season. Instead of sticking around for a second season as the head coach of the University of New Orleans, Williams left to be an assistant for the Marquette Warriors under head coach Tom Crean.

Most observers questioned why Williams would leave a head coaching position for an assistant coaching position at the time although a fair argument could be made that being an assistant coach at Marquette is a better job than being a head coach at the University of New Orleans. That debate was not necessary less than a year later because following the 2007-08 season, despite the Hoosiers men's basketball program being hampered by NCAA sanctions thanks to the NCAA violating text messaging prowess of current Milwaukee Bucks assistant Kelvin Sampson, Tom Crean packed up his sun tanning beds and moved them south to coach the Indiana Hoosiers. I have said it a millions times already so for the 1,000,001th time: Tom Crean is a fool for leaving Marquette for Indiana.

Instead of staying at a stable program (Marquette) where Crean could have milked his 2003 NCAA Final Four appearance (really more of a testament to Dwayne Wade, Travis Diener, Steve Novak, and Robert Jackson than Crean though in my book) for another decade, Crean left for a formerly famous program (Indiana) that has less scholarships available thanks to the aforementioned NCAA sanctions. Crean looks to have one of the best recruiting classes heading into the 2011-12 season but we all know that doesn't always translate into wins. Let me take it one step further. If I was a betting man, I would say Crean not only has a shorter tenure at Indiana than Williams but Crean will earn less money from Indiana than Williams will earn from Marquette.

With Crean tanning in Indiana, Marquette named Buzz Williams their 16th head coach**. Williams has put together quite an impressive resume since taking over as head coach of the Warriors for the 2008-09 season. Williams and the Warriors made three straight NCAA Tournament appearances: got to the second round in 2009***, lost in the first round in 2010****, and made the Sweet Sixteen in 2011****. All told Williams is 69-37 overall, 32-22 in the Big East, and 3-3 in the NCAA Tournament as head coach of the Marquette Warriors.

Williams already earned millions of dollars in just the three years in charge of the Warriors. Based on tax returns filed by Marquette University (through June 30, 2011), Williams earned $2,800,347 in 2009 thanks in large-part to a one-time $1,987,203 bonus. Furthermore Team Buzz Williams, a limited partnership that Williams runs, paid Williams an additional $397,500 in 2009. Williams most likely runs his speaking engagements and basketball camps through Team Buzz Williams. All told, Williams made $3,197,847 in 2009 alone. As a point of comparison, Marquette woman's basketball coach Terri Mitchell earned $417,985 in 2009.

There are differing numbers as to what Williams earned in 2010. According to USA Today, Williams only earned $876,282 in 2010 while other sources claim that Williams earned $1.6 million in 2010 as a part of a six-year rollover contract.

Recently Arkansas and Oklahoma showed interest in hiring Williams. Much like Crean leaving Marquette for Indiana, it would have made no sense for Williams to leave for either of those programs, especially since Oklahoma is still in hot water thank to Kalvin Sampson's texting prowess there before he left to commit similar violations at Indiana. Luckily for Williams, interest form Arkansas and Oklahoma allowed him to negotiate another raise. Marquette added an undisclosed number of years (presumably more than six years though) at roughly $2 million a year on a rolling basis. It is unclear what buyout was added to the new deal (presumably more than $3 million).

Although I have not read the actual contract, if it were my money, I would not have offered Williams the extension. Ask Notre Dame how they feel about the gargantuan extension they gave Charlie Weis. The only thing that makes sense about the contract is that it contains rolling salaries with a buyout provision. As long as the buyout is not too large, at least Marquette is able to move on for less than the full value of the contract if Williams struggles over the next few seasons.

For all those naysayers that said Williams should have stayed at the University of New Orleans, Williams is laughing all the way to the bank. The 38-year old Buzz Williams is already a very rich man and is on the cusp of being even richer if he fulfills the rest of his contract. Plus college coaches always need at least six years remaining on their contract to appease recruits so Williams will be offered raises and extensions every few years to make sure he is locked up for at least six years into the future until he leaves Marquette.

College basketball and football coaching salaries are skyrocketing much like CEO compensation. Buzz Williams is going to make somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.5 million for the 2011-12 season to coach a college basketball team. Obviously that is what the market will bear so good for Buzz but shame on college athletic departments in general. Once one coach gets a nice bump in compensation, every other school has to fall in line. I am not advocating that coaches shouldn't get paid well but at some point the raises and extensions spin out of control. At this point it seems like the extension given to Buzz Williams is just another example of how these raises and extensions have done exactly that, spun out of control.

* = Navarro College (1990–92), Oklahoma City University (1992-94), University of Texas at Arlington (1994-98), Texas A&M University–Kingsville (1998-99), Northwestern State University (1999–00), Colorado State University (2000–04), and Texas A&M University (2004–06).

** = Ralph Risch (1916–17), John J. Ryan (1918–20), Frank Murray (1920–29), Cord Lipe (1929–30), Bill Chandler (1930–51), Tex Winter (1951–53), Jack Nagle (1953–58), Eddie Hickey (1958–64), Al McGuire (1964–77), Hank Raymonds (1977–83), Rick Majerus (1983–86), Bob Dukiet (1986–89), Kevin O'Neill (1989–94), Mike Deane (1994–99), and Tom Crean (1999–08).

*** = 6th seeded Marquette beat 11th seeded Utah State 58-57 and 6th seeded Marquette lost to 3rd seeded Missouri 83-79

**** = 6th seeded Marquette lost to 11th seeded Washington 80-78

***** = 11th seeded Marquette beat 6th seeded Xavier 66-55, 11th seeded Marquette beat 3rd seeded Syracuse 66-62, and 11th seeded Marquette lost to 2nd seeded University of North Carolina 81-63.

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