After seeing lots of posts on the message boards demanding Richt's head for the "Mess in Memphis," I was thinking about buyout clauses. That prompted me to look at Mark Richt's contract and his buyout. (This post is simply an observation on that deal, not necessarily an endorsement of any action. We don't call for heads here.)
Richt's current contract runs through the end of the 2013 season. If Richt is fired (technically, the Athletic Association would terminate his contract with six months notice) then Richt gets three amounts: (1) his full compensation package for the year in which he is fired, (2) a portion of his compensation package for future years remaining on his contract, and (3) a longevity bonus. Richt's full compensation package includes his base salary and payments for media appearances ($800K), the equipment deal with Nike, and a football camp payment ($100K). In addition, Richt earns a longevity bonus of $300,000 for each season he coaches after the 2005 season, but that cumulative sum is paid when the contract ends.
So, if Richt is fired, he'd get his full package for the year in which he is fired. Here's the interesting part. Effective January 1, 2011, for years remaining on his contract after the year of termination, Richt's buyout gives him only his base salary and his equipment deal money, but not the payments for media appearances and camps. That reduction represents a $900,000 savings on each year remaining on the contract after the year of termination. That reduction for future year compensation is effective only for years after 2011. Years before that would have entitled Richt to his full package. The longevity bonus for prior seasons would have to be paid too. That number currently stands at $1.5M. It increases by $300,000 for each season Richt coaches.
This means that Richt's contract makes it $1.8M easier to fire him in 2011 or earlier.
Here's one other thing about Richt's contract. Coaches generally require at least four years remaining on their contracts for recruiting. You want a recruit to see that you have at least four years remaining on your contract to assure him that you'll be around for his time at your school. So, as crazy as it might sound to you, you shouldn't be surprised if Richt gets a one-year contract extension between now and February 2.
Also, Richt isn't the only contract that would have to be bought out. Todd Grantham's got a buyout clause, too. Reportedly, he has a three year deal that would require a full buyout if he is fired without cause. That means Grantham would get $750,000 per season remaining on his contract. He's entering year two of that contract.