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Karl Dorrell Contract, Salary & Buyout Breakdown

Colorado is staring at an 0-3 start if it can’t find a way to beat Minnesota this weekend. What happens if the Buffs part ways with head coach Karl Dorrell?

This wasn’t supposed to be an easy start for the Colorado Buffaloes. The Pac-12 squad entered its Week 1 and Week 2 games as double-digit underdogs, yet still managed to underperform in both, losing by 25 points to TCU and 31 to Air Force.

It doesn’t get any easier this weekend either, as the Buffs head to Minnesota, which FanDuel currently has at -27.5.

Colorado is facing a possible 0-3 start, and coming off of a losing season in 2021, head coach Karl Dorrell can feel his seat starting to sizzle.

What would it look like if Colorado decided to cut Dorrell loose now? Or after the season? And what money has he already made in Boulder, both in salaries and bonuses? Let’s take a look.

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Karl Dorrell Contract Details

Dorrell signed a five-year deal with Colorado on Feb. 29, 2020, to coach the Buffs through the 2024 season. His base salary for each season is $500,000, though for the pay periods from mid-2020 to mid-2021, he agreed to cut that by 10%. More on that in a minute.

As is the case for most coaches, the bulk of Dorrell’s earnings come from supplemental salary. Dorrell’s contract lays it out to the dollar:

  • $1.2 million for radio and TV appearances, with a $100,000 annual increase
  • $1.2 million for promotion and fundraising around the athletic department, with a $100,000 annual increase
  • $100,000 for student-athlete academic development
  • $100,000 for the “welfare and development” of his players
  • $100,000 for community outreach

That supplemental salary plus base pay means he signed on to make the following:

  • $3.2 million in 2020
  • $3.4 million in 2021
  • $3.6 million in 2022
  • $3.8 million in 2023
  • $4 million in 2024
  • $18 million total

Pandemic Pay Cut

The lone amendment to Dorrell’s current contract came just months after he initially signed it. That July, as it became clear that the COVID-19 pandemic would continue to wreak havoc on college sports, he agreed to reduce his salary for the 2020-21 school year by 10%. This is in line with Colorado basketball coaches Tad Boyle and JR Payne, athletic director Rick George, and university leadership, who all took the same pay cut. Colorado’s other athletics coaches — in the so-called “non-revenue” sports — agreed to reduce their salaries by 5%.

For Dorrell, he was initially scheduled to make $3.2 million that year — $500,000 in base salary and $2.7 million in supplemental salary. Those numbers dropped to $450,000 and $2.43 million respectively, meaning he made a total of $2,880,000 in salary that year.

Karl Dorrell Buyout Details

If the university fires Dorrell at any point this season, it will owe him a hefty buyout. Unlike Scott Frost at Nebraska, however, that number won’t change drastically for a while.

If Colorado fires Dorrell on Dec. 31 exactly, it will owe him $7.8 million. That’s determined by a clause in his contract that calls for a buyout of $11.4 million, minus his earned salary (base + supplemental) over the course of the year. So, if he’s fired before Dec. 31, expect that number to be a tad higher.

If Colorado wants to wait until after the new year, then the buyout will start at $7.8 million and drop accordingly throughout the year as he accrues pay — so for our purposes here, if Colorado wants to fire Dorrell this coaching carousel cycle, it doesn’t matter too much when it is.

There’s another clause in the contract that might come into play. Dorrell’s contract states that he “has a duty to obtain new employment to mitigate any damages arising from termination” and “such damage payments…shall be reduced by any amounts Dorrell receives or is to receive in the future for services for comparable professional employment.” In the simplest terms: if Dorrell is fired, he needs to make a good-faith effort to find another job that will pay him instead of Colorado.

Potential Bonuses

For the term of the contract, Dorrell has the potential to add hundreds of thousands of dollars to his annual income through performance and academic incentives.

For academics, if the team has an APR rating of 965 at the end of the school year, then Dorrell will earn an additional $50,000. He failed to reach this mark in 2020-21 (954). Official numbers for 2021-22 have not been released, but the university also did not provide Boardroom with documentation to show a bonus was paid out. It did when he earned $150,000 for bringing Colorado to the 2020 Alamo Bowl and being named Pac-12 Coach of the Year — the only bonuses he’s qualified for to date.

Here’s everything Dorrell can still earn:

  • $50,000 if Colorado wins seven games in a season
  • $25,000 for each additional win after seven
  • $100,000 for a non-New Year’s Day bowl invitation
  • $175,000 for a New Year’s Day bowl invitation
  • $450,000 for reaching the College Football Playoff
  • $750,000 for winning the national championship
  • $50,000 for winning the Pac-12 championship
  • $50,000 for winning Pac-12 Coach of the Year
  • $100,000 for winning National Coach of the Year

Crunch the numbers and you’ll see that the maximum Dorrell can earn in bonuses in a given year — if Colorado goes undefeated, wins the national championship, he wins both Coach of the Year awards, and the team does well in the classroom — is a whopping $1.7 million.

Karl Dorrell Additional Allowances & Perks

In addition to his salary and bonuses, Dorrell has access to a few perks that go with the job. Colorado has agreed to give Dorrell:

  • A courtesy car (full-size SUV) or a supplemental salary of $600 in lieu of a formal automobile allowance
  • A $700 per month allowance for dues at the Boulder Country Club or a comparable facility
  • 10 suite tickets for home football games and four tickets for men’s and women’s basketball home games
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