The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Steve Alford’s massive buyout ensures he and UCLA are stuck with one-another for a while

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Steve Alford (Getty Images)

Here’s some free advice for UCLA fans dissatisfied with the hire of Steve Alford: Get used to him because the former New Mexico coach is going to be in Westwood for a long, long time.

Alford’s freshly signed UCLA contract contains an unusual buyout clause that calls for him to pay the school a staggering $10.4 million – four times his annual salary – if he quits before April 20, 2016, the Los Angeles Times first reported Monday night. UCLA would be obligated to pay Alford the same amount if it terminates his contract prior to that same date.

The buyout doesn’t get much easier for either side to stomach right away after that either. It drops each year after that from $7.8 million in 2017 to $5.2 million in 2018 to $2.6 million in 2019, the year before Alford's seven-year, $18.2 million contract expires.

What Alford's unusually large buyout ensures is he will almost certainly be UCLA's coach for at least the next five or six years.

It's extremely difficult to imagine UCLA raising either $10.4 million in booster donations or anywhere close to it should it have buyer's remorse in the next few years. Similarly, another school would have to be wholly convinced Alford is its ideal candidate to even consider shelling out $10.4 million -- or even half that much -- for the right to hire him.

It's easy to see why Alford would want such a commitment from UCLA to leave a 10-year contract extension on the table at New Mexico. Alford likely had lifelong job security had he remained with the Lobos, so it was a bit of a leap of faith making the jump to a UCLA program with little patience and notoriously high expectations.

Why UCLA would want such a large buyout is a bit harder to fathom.

Outside of his alma mater Indiana or maybe one of the other elite jobs in the country, it's difficult to envision Alford using UCLA as a steppingstone. Thus all UCLA succeeded in doing is tying the fate of its basketball program to Alford for the next five or six years, a major leap of faith considering the hire was a solid one but far from an instant home run.

The one advantage to the massive buyout for UCLA is it will curb all questions about Alford's job security for at least five or six years and guarantee stability in a program that lacked it during the final years of Ben Howland's tenure.

That's definitely good for recruiting in the short term, but it's also a gulp-inducing gamble. If the marriage with Alford turns sour, a divorce won't be a realistic option for quite a while.

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