Jimbo Fisher's buyout jump-starts college football coaching carousel. Is Chip Kelly next?

FILE - Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher watches during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. As Jimbo Fisher enters his third season at Texas A&M he has a luxury afforded to very few coaches: a four-year starter at quarterback in Kellen Mond. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning, File)
Jimbo Fisher was fired as Texas A&M's football coach and will be paid a record buyout of $77.5 million. (Thomas Graning / Associated Press)

Jimbo Fisher got a jumbo buyout. Brady Hoke got an attaboy. Andy Avalos got bucked from the Broncos. Zach Arnett barely got a how do you do.

All four college football coaches exited their jobs last week, creating early openings in a market that can resemble musical chairs. More coaches are expected to retire (as Hoke did, from San Diego State), or be fired as the regular season nears its conclusion and bowl season approaches.

UCLA coach Chip Kelly was on the hot seat after the Bruins played dismally in a loss to Arizona State, but he might have saved his job after an inspiring victory over crosstown rival USC on Saturday.

It's safe to say that no other canned coach will emerge with anywhere near the buyout Fisher got from Texas A&M: $77.5 million, nearly four times what any other coach has received. Fisher is due nearly $19.4 million within 60 days and nearly $7.3 million every year through 2031.

Read more: Chip Kelly’s ceiling didn’t change after beating USC, but it’s enough for UCLA right now

Let's keep track of who is out and who is in the coaching carousel. This story will be updated with head coaching changes throughout the year.


Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M: Fisher was a hot commodity when the Aggies hired him in 2018, having posted a 83-23 record that included a BCS championship at Florida State. He never approached that success at Texas A&M, but winning records and bowl victories in his first three seasons triggered a new 10-year contract with $95 million guaranteed in 2021. Winning ceased, bowl appearances dried up and Fisher was fired even though the school must pay him that staggering $77.5 million buyout, dwarfing the previous record buyout of $21.7 million paid in 2020 to former Auburn coach Gus Malzahn.

Zach Arnett, Mississippi State: Arnett had been the Bulldogs' defensive coordinator for three seasons when he took over the reins after the sudden death of coach Mike Leach in December. He didn't last a season, getting fired Monday after a 51-10 loss to Texas A&M that also was Fisher's last game. Mississippi State was 4-6 under Arnett and had trouble scoring. However, he'll be paid a buyout of $4.5 million — half of the $9 million left on his contract.

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Andy Avalos, Boise State: Avalos was fired Nov. 12, having gone 22-14 in three seasons in charge of a program used to winning at a far greater rate. The last five Boise State coaches left for Power 5 jobs. Avalos, a former All-WAC linebacker for the Broncos, had success as a defensive coordinator at Boise State and Oregon and likely will be hired quickly in that capacity again. How much is his buyout? Quaint, by Fisher standards. Avalos will be paid 85% of what his base salary was to be the next two years, a total of $2.85 million.

Brady Hoke, San Diego State: Hoke had two stints with the Aztecs, sandwiched around a four-year run at Michigan. He will retire at the end of this season, having posted a record of 39-31 over those two stints. Hoke, 65, twice was named Mountain West coach of the year. Like Arnett and Avalos, Hoke was a defense-first coach whose team had trouble scoring. He had three years left on his contract and a buyout of $5 million, which likely was reduced when he announced his retirement.

Dino Babers, Syracuse: After eight years with the Orangemen, Babers, 62, was canned with one game left in the regular season and one year remaining on his contract. Tight ends coach Nunzio Campanile will take over as interim coach for the final regular-season game against Wake Forest. Babers was 41-55 with two bowl appearances. His best season was 2018 when the team went 10-3.


Assistants promoted to lead programs after a head coach is fired or resigns are usually temporary assignments. Clemson's Dabo Swinney and Ohio State's Ryan Day leap to mind as exceptions. Two prominent programs have employed interim coaches the entire season because scandals took down the head coach late in the summer.

Harlon Barnett, Michigan State: Barnett was dealt a difficult hand, taking over after coach Mel Tucker was fired for cause in September amid accusations of sexual harassment. Five players left the program and the Spartans have struggled to one of their worst seasons in memory. Reports indicate athletic director Alan Haller has already begun identifying candidates to replace Barnett.

David Braun, Northwestern: Braun has improved his stock after becoming something of an emergency hire after coach Pat Fitzgerald was fired in July amid allegations of widespread hazing in the program. Braun, after all, had just been hired as defensive coordinator a few months earlier. A surprise win over Wisconsin made Braun the first Northwestern coach with five wins in his first season since Walter McCornack in 1903. He just might keep the job.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.