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I’ll Have What He’s Having: Curious Contract Provisions in the NCAA

2009 November 22
by Phil Miller

The job of a sports agent is to get the best contract terms for his/her client. The best/most notorious is Scott Boras, famous for his reputation of being a tough negotiator for baseball players. His newly-drafted clients have no qualms about saying “no,” even if that means sitting out an entire season of minor league baseball. The willingness and ability to say “no” is one of the most important determinants of absolute bargaining power. It helps when there are numerous independent leagues, good substitutes where Boras clients like Arizona’s Max Scherzer can continue to hone their craft while negotiations are ongoiong.

Perhaps Neil Cornrich, who represents embattled Kansas football coach Mark Mangino, should be mentioned in the same breath as Mr. Boras in terms of uber-valuable sports agents.

If the Kansas athletic department’s investigation into KU coach Mark Mangino’s treatment of players results in the school firing Mangino for cause, that decision could spark a battle for more than $6 million, according to Mangino’s contract.

Mangino would be given a 21-day window after his firing to submit a written appeal of his termination to either KU chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little or athletic director Lew Perkins. The appeal would be reviewed by a three-person committee appointed by Gray-Little, comprised of faculty or professional staff employees, one selected by Gray-Little, one selected by Mangino and one agreed upon by both parties. Mangino would have the right to attend committee meetings and have legal counsel.

Two of the three committee members would have to rule in favor of the school to uphold the termination for cause. In that case, Mangino would be paid only what he is owed through the date of termination. But if the committee ruled in favor of Mangino, turning the termination for cause into a termination without cause, Mangino would be owed $6.6 million — the remainder of his contract ($2 million per year for three years plus a buyout in the range of $600,000). KU would also have the option of reinstating Mangino as coach.

The following brought forth my inner Spock when it caused me to raise an eyebrow:

Mangino would be given a 21-day window after his firing to submit a written appeal of his termination to either KU chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little or athletic director Lew Perkins. The appeal would be reviewed by a three-person committee appointed by Gray-Little, comprised of faculty or professional staff employees, one selected by Gray-Little, one selected by Mangino and one agreed upon by both parties. Mangino would have the right to attend committee meetings and have legal counsel.

Two of the three committee members would have to rule in favor of the school to uphold the termination for cause. In that case, Mangino would be paid only what he is owed through the date of termination. But if the committee ruled in favor of Mangino, turning the termination for cause into a termination without cause, Mangino would be owed $6.6 million — the remainder of his contract ($2 million per year for three years plus a buyout in the range of $600,000). KU would also have the option of reinstating Mangino as coach.

You could argue that Self is such a good coach, so confident in his ability, and such a known commodity that the value of extra-protective language is negligible to Self.

Yet the article ends by noting that another one of Cornrich’s clients is former Kansas State University football coach Ron Prince, he of the super-secret $3.2 million in deferred payments, something that rightly rankles much of Wildcat Nation.

Once again, as with Mangino, Prince may have had more value from such an agreement than a coach of Self’s stature. But bargaining is a two-way street. It takes two to tango. Pick your cliche. Any language has to be mutually agreeable to both sides to appear in a final contract.

Kansas State, when it gave Prince his extension, knew that he was a new coach and hadn’t exactly been tearing up the North Division of the Big XII. Likewise, Kansas was well-aware that Mangino’s reputation was not one of a jolly old elf.

Considering that Prince was fired shortly after signing a contract extension and that Mangino also recently signed his own extension, what in the blue blazes is going on with coach negotiations in northeastern Kansas FBS athletics?

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