There’s been a subtle shift in Kentucky’s football contracts over the past year or so.
Remember when Coach Mark Stoops signed his big extension in late October of 2014?
At the news conference to trumpet the extra years and money, just hours before the Cats left for Missouri, Mitch Barnhart said he saw no need for buyout language in Stoops’ deal.
The athletics director said at the time that he had never been “a big believer” in forcing coaches to pay money back if they bolt for another job.
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“I want people at the University who want to be here,” Barnhart said in 2014 when asked about the lack of a buyout clause in that new contract. “If they don’t, then we need to find somebody that does.
“Loyalty is a strong word in my book, and I think people throw it around pretty loosely at times,” Barnhart continued. “I want folks who are going to want to be loyal to what we’re trying to do here, and I don’t think you need buyouts to do that.”
The contract itself says “that we’re committed to each other,” Stoops said at the time when asked about the lack of a buyout.
But in the past year or so as new Kentucky assistant football coaches have been hired and other UK assistants have re-upped their deals, a buyout clause has been added to each contract.
The two latest pacts signed this month with new assistant coaches Michael Smith (wide receivers) and Brad White (outside linebackers) include a standard $100,000 payment to UK per year left on their contract if they should part ways with Kentucky before their terms expire.
Stoops’ most recent deal, signed on March 15 of last year, added a $1 million buyout clause to be paid within 60 days if he should leave the program.
Both the head coach and athletic director were asked about the alteration in interviews with the Herald-Leader at the start of the 2017 season. Barnhart said it was part of the cyclical nature of college sports.
For a while, I didn’t see there was a real need, but as the movement of coaches and staffs has become very fluid, I just felt in fairness if we’re going to continue to make commitments to folks, I felt it was important that they made a commitment to us.
“For a while, I didn’t see there was a real need, but as the movement of coaches and staffs has become very fluid, I just felt in fairness if we’re going to continue to make commitments to folks, I felt it was important that they made a commitment to us,” he told the Herald-Leader in August, noting that it was in part Stoops’ idea at the time.
“I want them to understand I’m out there committed to them and I want them committed to me,” Barnhart added.
Many coaches within the Southeastern Conference have similar clauses, so Stoops said he had no problem making a more formal pledge to UK in that way.
“As the commitment levels get bigger on both sides, you always look at that and be fair and readjust it,” Stoops said of the deals. “And honestly, if I was to leave, the university should be compensated because there’s a lot of expense in looking for a new coach and hiring new coaches and all that. Assistant coaches being under contract that they have to pay.”
Stoops, whose 10-person coaching staff is set to make a combined $4.53 million in salary this coming season, was fine with including similar language in assistant coaches’ new and renewed contracts as well.
“Our commitment was bigger to the assistant coaches as well,” he said, “and I wanted to make sure we had that same commitment back.”
All 10 of UK’s assistant coaches have some form of a buyout in their pacts, with the exception of secondary coach Steve Clinkscale, whose deal is the only one set to expire in 2018 and is likely in the process of being worked out.
Co-offensive coordinators Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw as well as defensive coordinator Matt House all would have to pay $150,000 per year left on their deals if they should leave, per terms of their deals.
Recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach Vince Marrow has the same buyout.
All four of those coaches have deals that expire in 2020.