Houston could be offering Tom Herman a third contract in less than three years.
Houston athletic director Hunter Yurachek told SB Nation Radio on Tuesday that he was working on a “new, extended commitment” to the coach. Herman agreed to become Houston’s coach in December 2014 and signed a contract extension with the school in November.
Yurachek made the comments when he was asked on the Nate and Creight Show if the school was willing and able to do “whatever it needs to do” to keep Herman as its coach.
We’ve got to be reasonable in that commitment, but yes, we are willing, and I am working on the parameters of making a new extended commitment to Coach Herman to retain him as our head football coach. You talk to Coach Herman and he expresses a great affinity and love for the university of Houston – obviously for our football program and the young men that are a part of that football program and that have committed to be a part of that for our future. I think him and his family both love having their residence in the city of Houston, and what the city offers. I think it’s going to take a phenomenal, and I mean phenomenal, opportunity for him to leave the university of Houston. One, because it’s a phenomenal opportunity and two because we’re committed to making it very hard for him to leave here at this point in time.
Last year it was just the start of that and you see obviously great value in what Coach Herman has brought not only to our football program but to this university and this city and we’re going to do everything we can to retain him.
The extension would, of course, be to prevent Herman from leaving for another school after the end of the season. LSU will be in the market for a new coach in the offseason if it doesn’t retain interim coach Ed Orgeron and other Power Five schools (Texas?) will be looking for coaches as well.
Herman is making $2.8 million a season per the contract extension he signed in November and his contract had a $5 million bonus stipulation if Houston became a member of a Power Five conference. The Big 12 isn’t expanding, so Houston’s Power Five options are now pretty much nothing.
According to USA Today’s coaching salary database, Herman’s $2.8 million salary would tie him at No. 36 in the country with Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson based on 2015 salary data. Herman’s original contract had him making $1.6 million in base pay, which was No. 61 in FBS.
Herman is obviously worth whatever Houston wants to pay him. The Cougars have become one of the most marketable non-Power Five teams in college football with him at the helm and Houston hopes that success will continue to mean increased donations to the school. And as Yurachek alluded to above, it knows Herman may be its most valuable asset. Attempting to keep Herman for as long as possible is a smart move.
But constantly renegotiating contracts shows just how little contracts mean in the coaching world. Is it sustainable for a school outside the Power Five structure to annually renegotiate its coach’s contract? Houston has already increased student fees for more revenue and subsidized the athletic department in 2014-15 by over $28 million per USA Today.
A big reason for the subsidy is the American Athletic Conference’s lack of TV revenue. Commissioner Mike Aresco, who has been pushing for his conference to be mentioned in the same breath with the Power Five conferences, told CBS Sports that he expects the conference to have more TV revenue in the future. The AAC’s TV deal with ESPN expires after the 2018 season.
Herman’s presence at Houston — and Houston’s continued relevance — helps make the AAC an attractive commodity. But the conference is much more than Houston, and 2.5 more seasons is an eternity in college football. And LSU and Texas, among others, are phenomenal jobs. Houston may be outflanked in a Power Five bidding war, no matter how proactive it tries to be.
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