University of Oregon administrators are expected to approve a contract extension for football coach Mario Cristobal later today. The new deal gives the coach six years to an average of $ 4.55 million per pop. Additionally, there are guaranteed retention bonuses that Cristobal would collect each January, totaling over $ 2 million over the term of the contract.
In addition, the agreement raises its buyout.
It’s a strong move from Oregon, but not reckless or hopelessly. Cristobal, who was 11th in the conference in terms of salary, would only fall behind Kyle Whittingham of Utah and David Shaw of Stanford. I couldn’t help but think that UO’s athletic director Rob Mullens has learned a few things. Also, let Mullens know his seated football coach is his most valuable ally in the department.
Let’s take a look at a bit of history:
♦ In 2015, Mullens awarded then-head coach Mark Helfrich a five-year, $ 17.5 million contract after the Ducks played in the first game of the college football playoffs. Helfrich had a 24-4 record at the time. Moreover, he did not threaten to leave Eugene. Helfrich was originally from Oregon, building his dream home at the foot of a local golf course while earning $ 1.8 million a year in base salary.
Quote from Helfrich that captures it best: “I keep pinching myself. “
Still, Mullens gave Helfrich a 75 percent raise in the first year of this lucrative extension. It’s a decision that came back to haunt the AD when Helfrich then turned 13-12, was fired and ultimately forced Mullens to have to call boosters to help raise funds for a lump sum buyout of over $ 12 million. of dollars.
♦ In 2017, Mullens hired Willie Taggart and gave him a five-year, $ 16 million contract. Taggart earned $ 2.9 million in base salary in his first (and only) season. Mullens’ misfire did not include a big enough buyout. There was no contest for Taggart at the time of rental. The Ducks hired Taggart from South Florida and UO should have leveraged that for substantial protection. Instead, Taggart’s buyout was only $ 4.36 million and worse yet, the contract allowed it to be prorated over 48 months to $ 62,500 per month.
The best illustrative quote from Taggart: “I’m excited about the Vegas bowl.”
One he never trained.
Taggart’s agent played Oregon. Barely 11 months after the start of this contract with UO, Taggart left for the state of Florida. Mullens told me immediately: “I was disappointed. We sat down a year ago and made a commitment to him, he made a commitment to us. We have done everything to support our commitment and I am disappointed.
♦ In 2018, Mullens hired Cristobal. He offered $ 2.5 million in base salary. Additionally, the AD incorporated a brutal buyout that started at $ 10 million in the first year. It was obvious to anyone paying attention that Mullens knew he had all the power with Cristobal. The DA had already crossed out twice and needed to protect against a third puff.
Quote who captures her best?
An important callback from Oregon that was closely following Cristobal’s hiring told me at the time, “A less than favorable result could be problematic for Rob.”
The Ducks are now 24-9 under Cristobal. He won a Pac-12 championship, a Rose Bowl title, and has his team play in Friday’s conference title game against USC. Ironically, Helfrich will be the analyst working on the show for FOX. The only thing more poetic from an Oregon perspective would have been playing UCLA and Chip Kelly for the title instead of the Trojans.
What I’m saying is that history matters when you define what you now see in Eugene. Cristobal’s drive in Oregon was not without some turbulence, but its trajectory is encouraging and its performance proven solid. Mullens must feel good about what he sees and knows he can’t afford a disruption in the short term.
Details of the proposed contract extension – six years and $ 27.3 million – suggest Mullens really loves his football coach. Also, that the AD has learned a few things over the past five years. Oregon has protected itself while making about as strong a commitment as a Pac-12 university could make in these economic times.
Cristobal gets a windfall, job security and a substantial raise. The preventive extension is a gesture of respect for the sports department, especially in these COVID-19 times. In return, the Ducks have stepped up their protection against short-term redemptions. The annual retention bonuses for Cristobal are also a creative new twist. They are borrowed from Mullens’ own contract which includes annual six-figure retention bonus payments each summer for the AD.
Will Auburn flinch at the numbers?
Their laughs underscore the financial disadvantage the Pac-12 finds itself in compared to its Power Five peers. SEC universities don’t just order blank checks, they hand them over to applicants. Members of the conference can afford it. Over the past decade, the sports departments of the SEC have each raised more than $ 100 million in media rights from members of the Pac-12.
In 2020, the Ducks face a net deficit of $ 65 million in the sports department. Staff have been laid off and laid off. Unfilled jobs were frozen months ago. Mullens and Cristobal both suffered pay cuts. When I asked Oregon President Michael Schill this week how involved he might be in negotiating Cristobal’s extension, Schill said Mullens would be the go-to person.
“(He) keeps me well informed though.
Schill also said, “He understands that any deal we make is to be funded from the sports department’s revenue, which can include ticket sales, media contracts, and donations.”
No college grant, my friends. This ship sailed over ten years ago in Oregon when the directive came for self-sufficiency from the sports department. That’s why the Pac-12’s leadership issues matter. Also, why having boosters like Phil and Penny Knight makes Oregon such a strong outlier in a struggling conference.
Cristobal likes to build things. He is a worker at heart. That’s why you’ll see him jumping in pre-game warm-ups, whistling in the mouth, cap the ball back, while the opposing head coach is often alone in midfield with his arms folded. I don’t think he would leave a job unfinished. Plus, I think Cristobal’s first head coach job (referred to Florida International) gave him a healthy career outlook.
Mullens works more closely with Cristobal than most ADs. In fact, the two live so close that they have often passed each other on runs and morning walks. Mullens came out, get some fresh air. Cristobal is on the phone and recruiting. They stop and talk for so long around the corner sometimes that when Mullens comes home 45 minutes late, his wife sometimes asks, “Have a good run today?”
The answer is, “No, I just ran into Mario. “
This folkloric approach must be part of Oregon’s appeal to Cristobal. The kiss of death for any head soccer coach is when he looks around at a staff meeting and finds that no one who hired him is in the room anymore. But in UO’s case, Mullens isn’t just in the room, he’s always in touch with Cristobal.
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