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Brad Brownell's six-year extension is a gamble for Clemson

SMU rallies past Clemson 65-59 in NIT semifinals
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Clemson head coach Brad Brownell talks to Austin Ajukwa during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against SMU in the semifinals of the NIT Tuesday, April 1, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

For a coach has been a modest but hardly overwhelming success during his four-year tenure, Brad Brownell sure seems to have the support of his administration.

Clemson rewarded Brownell for making the NIT semifinals this past season with a six-year contract that reportedly pays him $1.55 million next season and escalates to $2 million by the end of the deal.

What's even more significant than Brownell's salary is the hefty buyout figure in his new contract. According to Rivals affiliate Tigers Illustrated, Clemson would pay Brownell $5 million if it fired him now, $3.5 million if it fired him with three years left on his deal and $3 million if it fired him during the contract's final two years.

Such an unwieldy buyout figure essentially binds Clemson to Brownell for the majority of that six-year deal. Things would have to go terribly wrong for the Tigers to either pony up the cash necessary to oust Brownell or find a group of donors willing to fund his departure themselves.

"Brad has done a tremendous job building a solid foundation for our basketball program," athletic director Dan Radakovich said in statement released on Friday. "I have the utmost confidence in Brad to continue to build as we compete in the nation's best basketball conference. We're excited to have him lead our program into the future for a long time to come."

The timing of Brownell's extension opens Radakovich up to criticism should things go wrong because he was under no pressure to make such a long-term commitment. Hiring season in college basketball basically ended already, and no elite programs pursued Brownell anyway.

While Radakovich would surely point to Brownell's 10-win improvement last season and the signing of top 100 prospect Donte Gratham to headline Clemson's 2014 class, a wait-and-see approach still might have been more prudent.

Brownell's defense-oriented approach has yielded a 74-58 overall record, a 32-36 ACC record and one NCAA tournament bid, a one-and-out appearance in 2011 when Brownell was in his first season and was coaching players recruited by predecessor Oliver Purnell.

That's a solid first four years at a football school whose subpar facilities, modest fan support and lack of hoops pedigree makes it one of the ACC's most difficult jobs. Still, it's not so eye-popping a start that other athletic directors are beating down Brownell's door trying to lure him away.

With K.J. McDaniels leaving for the NBA draft and no other double-digit scorers returning, there's certainly no guarantee Clemson will be able to build on last year's 23-win season.

If Clemson shows further progress, expect Brownell's approval ratings to continue to be strong. But if Clemson backslides, expect Tigers fans to experience some buyer's remorse.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

 

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