A clause in Purdue coach's contract raises concerns he'd leave

If Matt Painter has any aspirations of leaving Purdue for an even more high-profile gig, his best chance to bolt may be after next season.

His team will begin the season in the top five in the nation. His three best players are all seniors. And according to the Lafayette Journal & Courier, the eight-year contract he signed a year ago contains an intriguing clause that would allow him to leave after July 1, 2011 without financial penalty.

Painter told the Journal & Courier he's "happy at Purdue," but he also acknowledged that he likes the "freedom" the clause provides. He said he negotiated to have the clause inserted into his contract to help make up for the fact that Purdue couldn't afford to pay him as much as some of his Big Ten peers receive.

"Once you get into negotiations, there's going to be a hard line drawn in the sand somewhere by both parties," Painter said. "When those things happen, sometimes their side can't move any more financially and then you're going to look at other areas to try to put yourself in the best possible situation to give yourself a little bit of freedom.

"Maybe if you don't have quite the guaranteed money as some of your peers in your league, there's going to have to be some other things that are advantageous to you and that was one example of that.

"Some coaches have had astronomical buyouts and they go to another job and they're paying it off for three, four, five or six years and you don't want to be in that kind of position. Anytime you can put yourself in a position to have a lower buyout, that only makes sense."

It should make Purdue fans a tad nervous that Painter doesn't come out and guarantee he'll be back in West Lafayette beyond next season, but chances are this is part of a negotiating ploy. Even if JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummel are all moving on after the 2010-11 season, the 39-year-old Painter has plenty of incentive to remain at Purdue for the long haul.

He's a Purdue alum. He was groomed for this job by former coach Gene Keady. And the talent Painter has coming in to replace the Big Three is solid enough that the Boilers won't fall out of the national picture anytime soon.

Another good sign for Purdue is that potential recruits don't seem to be scared off by the revelation of the clause in Painter's contract. Guard Chasson Randle, the No. 63 prospect in the class of 2011, narrowed his list to Purdue, Illinois and Stanford on Monday.

When the Courier & Journal spoke to Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke about the clause in Painter's contract, Burke did his best to downplay concerns.

"There's always that fear of being locked up indefinitely," Burke said. "I think most coaches at Purdue feel they're in a good situation. There may be better situations, but they're in a good situation."

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