Auburn’s head coach is already facing some heat. Ahead of the Tigers’ rivalry game against LSU this weekend, Boardroom examines Bryan Harsin’s contract and buyout details.
If there’s one thing we know about Bryan Harsin’s future at Auburn, it’s that we know nothing.
Former NFL and University of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron reported this week that the Tigers’ head football coach has already been informed he will not return to the sidelines next season. However shortly after, SEC Network analyst Paul Finebaum refuted that claim, insisting that “AJ has fumbled this one terribly.”
Here’s what we do know: Harsin’s Auburn Tigers went 6-7 last year in his first season at the helm and are 3-1 this season, with all three wins being of the uninspiring variety against low-level competition. To be fair, this moment would be a very early one for a program to fire a coach — even in college football, where head honchos have similar shelf life to that carton of milk strategically placed right at the front of the supermarket display.
Auburn faces LSU Saturday night in some Tiger-on-Tiger action on ESPN, and a win or loss here could go a long way in determining just how warm Harsin’s seat truly is.
Let’s dive into Auburn’s Bryan Harsin contract and see what the university has agreed to pay him — both to coach or, if they so decide, to get out of town.
Bryan Harsin Contract Overview at Auburn
Signed: Dec. 23, 2020
Term: Through 2026 season
Base Salary: $250,000
Bryan Harsin’s Supplemental Salary by Year
Each season, Harsin will receive money for endorsement rights and personal appearances. Those payments will each increase by $50,000 per year. Combined, this is what it comes out to.
- 2021: $4,750,000
- 2022: $4,850,000
- 2023: $4,950,000
- 2024: $5,050,000
- 2025: $5,150,000
- 2026: $5,250,000
Keeping Harsin’s base salary in mind ($1.5 million total), he is set to make $31.5 million over the life of his deal, before any performance bonuses tacked on.
Yes, that’s a lot of money, but it’s actually not a fortune against the broader backrdrop of SEC coach salaries. Jimbo FIsher’s deal at Texas A&M could exceed $100 million in total value by the time it expires, while Nick Saban (whose deal will also give him around that much) has a clause in his contract that will keep him at the top of the college football pay mountain for as long as he wants to coach.
Conveniently, this means two things: If Auburn wants to cut ties with Harsin either this year or any time before 2026, it could afford to do so with reasonable ease while also maintaining the flexibility to pay top-dollar for his replacement. It also means that if Harsin succeeds at Auburn, there’s likely a hefty extension coming his way rather soon.
Bryan Harsin Buyout Details
UPDATE, 10/31: Auburn fired Harsin on Monday, following a 41-27 loss to Arkansas that dropped the Tigers to 3-5. His full buyout is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $15 million.
Harsin’s buyout structure is fairly simple at Auburn. If the school fires him without cause, it will owe him 70% of whatever remains on his deal. Half of that balance will hit Harsin’s bank account within 30 days of his dismissal, with the rest of it coming his way in equal installments each July for the next four years.
So what does that look like?
If Auburn fires Harsin at the end of this season, he will receive the following annual payments:
Jan. 2023: $7,490,000
July 2023: $1,872,500
July 2024: $1,872,500
July 2025: $1,872,500
July 2026: $1,872,500
TOTAL HARSIN BUYOUT: $14,980,000
Like any college coach, Harsin can cash in on a number of bonuses if his team performs well on the field and in the classroom. Auburn’s a school with a proud football tradition, so he doesn’t get anything extra if the Tigers win a lot of regular season games; that’s not why he’s there. The goal is to win bowl games and, ultimately, SEC and national titles.
Here’s an outline of Harsin’s bonus structure:
In the SEC:
- Conference Championship Game Appearance: $100,000
- Conference Championship Win: $250,000
In Bowl Games:
- Non-SEC Group of 6 Bowl Appearance: $50,000
- Citrus Bowl or SEC Group of 6 Bowl Appearance: $150,000
- New Year’s 6 Bowl Appearance: $200,000
- New Year’s 6 Bowl Win: $250,000
- College Football Playoff Appearance: $300,000
- National Championship Appearance: $400,000
- National Championship Win: $800,000
- SEC Coach of the Year: $75,000
- National Coach of the Year: $75,000
It’s important to note that these bonuses are not cumulative, which means Harsin can only earn one bonus in each category per season. For example, if Auburn wins the SEC Championship, he only gets $250,000 from that category, not the additional $100,000 he would have received simply for appearing in the game.
It’s likely that Harsin received $50,000 last year for bringing the Tigers to the Birmingham Bowl. Yes, that is a bowl with an SEC tie, but it is not one of the six SEC-designated “first-tier” bowls, which is what the contract appears to indicate would have earned him $150,000.
Because the NCAA uses the Academic Progress Rate (APR) to determine postseason eligibility for all its athletic teams, coaches often have incentives in their contracts to keep their teams’ APR scores high. Here’s what Auburn needs to do in the classroom for Harsin to earn more money:
- APR Score 930-949: $25,000
- APR Score 950-999: $75,000
- APR Score 1000: $150,000
The NCAA has not yet released APR data for the 2021-22 school year, so we do not know if Harsin has earned an academic bonus to this point. Like the athletic bonuses, these are not cumulative, so he is only eligible for one of the above academic bonuses per season.
Special Allowances & Perks
You don’t take on the pressures of coaching in the SEC just for the big paycheck (and by the conference’s lofty standards, Harsin’s salary isn’t all that high). You also get into it for those sweet, sweet perks. Here’s the rest ofwhat Harsin’s contract entitles him to:
- 2 new automobiles, with gas, service, maintenance, and insurance covered
- 24 tickets to all football games: 12 in premium sections and 12 in reserved sections
- 12 “best available” tickets to football away and bowl games
- 5 premium tickets to home men’s basketball games
- 5 tickets to all other Auburn sporting events
- Full access and dues paid to a local country club for Harsin and his wife
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