Kevin Sumlin’s new contract will include protections — in the sum of millions of dollars — that should keep the UA and its new football coach together for at least two years.
Sumlin has signed a memorandum of understanding that includes massive buyouts for both sides if the school and coach were to part ways. Sumlin will owe the UA $10 million if he leaves for another job in 2018 or 2019, with that number dropping to $5 million in 2020, $3 million in 2021 and $1 million in 2022.
Similarly, the UA will owe Sumlin $10 million if he is fired without cause in Year 1 or Year 2. The buyout shrinks to $7.5 million in Year 3 and $5 million in Year 4. If the UA fires Sumlin in the final year of his contract, he would simply be owed the balance of his deal.
Sumlin’s memorandum of understanding, obtained Thursday by the Star, includes a mitigation clause. The coach will be obligated to seek employment if he is fired without cause by the UA, and money earned would lessen the UA’s buyout to him.
Sumlin’s five-year, $14.5 million deal is pending approval by the Arizona Board of Regents. The board is expected to meet next week to review the contract terms.
Sumlin’s buyout language is important given recent events. The UA paid Rich Rodriguez a $6.28 million buyout when it fired him Jan. 2, the same day news of a notice of claim against Rodriguez by his former administrative assistant was made public. Had Arizona kept Rodriguez, it would have owed him a $3 million retention bonus in March.
Rodriguez’s UA contract included a boilerplate “termination for cause” section and did not include a mitigation clause. Both will be beefed up in Sumlin’s deal. The memorandum of understanding does not mention a retention bonus.
“It’s a really good buyout for both sides,” UA athletic director Dave Heeke said on Tuesday. “It shows commitment from both sides.”
Other details of Sumlin’s pending deal:
- The coach will make $2 million in 2018 and 2019, with his salary jumping to $3.5 million in the following three seasons.
- Sumlin can make up to an additional $1.77 million per year in performance and academic bonuses. Sumlin will earn $100,000 if the Wildcats win the Pac-12 South, $200,000 if they win the conference title game, $500,000 if they play for a national championship and $1 million if they win it all. He’ll earn $125,000 if the UA wins nine regular-season games in a season, $150,000 if it wins 10, $250,000 if it wins 11 and $350,000 if it wins 12. (He is capped at $1.77 million even if his bonuses total more than that figure.)
- Sumlin will earn an additional $50,000 if he is named Pac-12 Coach of the Year and $100,000 if he is named the Associated Press National Coach of the Year.
- He will receive one courtesy vehicle and one country club membership, and eight football season tickets, four men’s basketball season tickets and four Wildcat sports passes per year.
- Sumlin is prohibited from coaching in the Pac-12 Conference for the first year after his employment at the UA ends.
Sumlin will have a $3.4 million assistant coaches salary pool. The figure is about $600,000 more than Arizona’s assistants made in 2017, although the 2018 staff will include 10 full-time assistants — one more than in the past.
Heeke said Tuesday the increased salary pool was important to Sumlin. His assistants at Texas A&M made a combined $4.8 million last year.
“We want to be able to attract and retain coaches … we want to get coaches that Kevin thinks will help lead our program forward,” he said. “We’re ready to invest in that — so is our leadership across campus as well.”