South Carolina football: Will Muschamp’s contract details revealed

Will Muschamp head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Will Muschamp head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

Did South Carolina football drop the ball with Will Muschamp’s contract?

South Carolina Athletic Director Ray Tanner made the move to fire head coach Will Muschamp midseason, amid a three-game Gamecock losing streak. The coach had only won six games over his final two seasons, and had the program spiraling in the wrong direction.

As comes with most coaching contracts these days, the school can still be responsible for paying a buyout when parting ways with a coach, due to the fact that you’re breaking the originally agreed upon contract.

Typically, though, there is language in the agreement that states that once a coach takes on his next role, his new salary will be subtracted from the buyout price. This, one, lessens the blow on the school paying its fired coach, and, two, prevents “double dipping” by a coach that’s essentially being paid by two different schools.

According to Ben Breiner with The State newspaper, Will Muschamp’s contract with South Carolina was missing this language. If true, that could mean the Gamecocks are on the hook for all $13 million of Muschamp’s buyout, even if he lands a job at another school.

Ray Tanner has made a statement regarding the status of these negotiations, saying that he’s yet to involve the South Carolina board or president Bob Caslen in these talks.

"“This hasn’t been a situation where I’ve involved our board leadership or chairman of the board, and President (Bob) Caslen. But I’ve started to have some conversations, without that yet, without those entities being involved because I don’t think we’re at a point that I have something to bring to them. So those conversations will be occurring — but otherwise, you guys know what the contract is.”"

Breiner and The State contacted two experts in the field of sports contracts, Anita Moorman and Marty Greenberg. Greenberg has said that in most cases, this “mitigation language,” as he calls it, is negotiated in the hiring process.

In fact, according to Breiner, it was negotiated in Carolina defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson’s deal in 2016, the same year that Muschamp was hired. It’s hard to understand why this would be agreed upon for one but not the other.

When originally hired, Will Muschamp was in the bottom tier of SEC coaches in terms of salary, but following nine- and seven-win seasons in 2017 and 2018, he was given extensions that ballooned his buyout by nearly $3 million.

Muschamp could now be owed all of this $13 million buyout by 2024, unless Ray Tanner can figure out a way to lessen the blow. In a COVID ridden season, where financial losses are piling, it’s not a good look for the Gamecock athletic department. Pair that with a new head coaching hire, and it could turn out to be a nightmare.

Edit: Breiner has also reported a buyout cut that could have saved the athletic department $2 million, was agreed upon last year, but was never actually signed, meaning the buyout owed could be upwards of $15.5 million. 

This amendment was put in place to use money from Muschamp’s buyout to give then-running backs coach Thomas Brown a pay raise. Before the agreement went into affect, Brown took a job with the Los Angeles Rams, leaving the amendment null and void.