LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- For University of Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich, "buyout" has always been a bad word.
He didn't believe in buyouts, didn't want them, had little use for them.
If a coach didn't want to be at U of L, Jurich didn't want to hold him or her against his will. If it took a contract clause to keep somebody, he'd rather go find someone who wanted to be there.
Steve Kragthorpe asked for a modest buyout in a reworked deal. Bobby Petrino supposedly did the same in a long-term deal he broke the season after it was signed.
But when it came to reworking Charlie Strong's U of L contract over the past two months, it was Jurich who hammered home the buyout.
Of all the bells and whistles in Strong's new $3.7-million-per-year guaranteed deal through 2020 with U of L, it's the buyout that stands out as a new wrinkle, the largest ever for a U of L coach.
If someone wants to come for Strong after next season, it'll cost $5 million to get him away. In each subsequent year, the buyout decreases by $600,000.
At long last, it seems, and particularly after the fiasco of a flirtation between Strong and Tennessee in November and early December, Jurich has bought in to the idea of a buyout.
"It was important to me," Jurich said of the buyout. "And Charlie understood it and did not balk at anything. It's a very hefty buyout, but we want to make sure this is a long-term contract with both parties."
With that buyout, Jurich may not have made Strong NFL-proof, but it's highly unlikely any college program will come looking to spend that kind of money.
Technically, coaches owe the school the amount of the buyout if they leave, but it nearly always is paid by the new employer, particularly when you get into the amount in Strong's contract.
While the deal runs through 2020, what it does in the near term is nearly lock Strong into the Cardinal program for the next three seasons -- its last in the Big East, and first two in the ACC.
The buyout is prohibitive for a school snatching Strong after the first two seasons. And if he stays a third, he's in line for a $1.25 million bonus, plus a $1 million annuity.
Think about this: the real guaranteed value of Strong's contract over the next three seasons, if he's committed for that long, isn't $3.7 million a year, but really $4.45 million.
Only three coaches of public-university football teams in the nation make that kind of guaranteed money, according to a USA Today database: Nick Saban at Alabama ($5.5 million), Mack Brown of Texas ($5.35 million) and Bob Stoops of Oklahoma ($4.55 million).
Strong also is in line for some steep incentives, starting with a bonus equal to one month's salary (a bit over $308,000) just for making a bowl game. Other incentives differ little from what already was in place, but all together they total around a potential $600,000 annually.
All of which begs the question, is Strong worth it?
Jurich's answer, not surprisingly, was yes. And then some.
"He's already lived up to (the contract) and earned it and on every aspect of his coaching ability he's got an A-plus from me," Jurich said.
The truth is, Jurich has to pay more than other athletic directors might. His head coach, when he's hot, is fertile ground for other programs. If not Tennessee last year, then someone else next year.
When Strong walked away from Tennessee, he upped his value to U of L. And he offered something that, for Jurich over the past 16 years, even money couldn't buy: stability.
"You know me," Jurich said. "Nothing is more important to me that chemistry and stability."
If the salary doesn't guarantee it, maybe the buyout will.
At the very least, maybe Jurich has bought himself out of a couple of years in the coaching search business.
Wednesday, March 5 2014 8:53 AM EST2014-03-05 13:53:25 GMT
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