As a child I was taught that a man’s word was his bond.  If you said you were going to do something, you did it.  There’s a common-sense logic behind it, and any person who follows that maxim typically garners respect from those he works with.  At the same time, we as a society know that this is not always how things work.  In order to prevent this from happening man came up with the contract, a written handshake.  The idea was that this written document could explain in detail what the handshake could not.


Admittedly, it’s an imperfect system.  The lease for my apartment is 10 pages long.  I would have preferred a handshake and the agreement of a monthly check.  It’s a lot less complicated and I would feel less stressed about “related parties,” “rent concessions” and “non-recourse obligations of landlord,” whatever that means.  However, it makes sure that both sides agree on what the rules are.  There’s consistency. Both sides agree to what the score is.


In most coaching contracts there are sections regarding termination and buyout.  They are there to strengthen that commitment, to help ensure both sides honor their word.  Still, sometimes a coach is more of a liability than an asset, or a coach sees a much better opportunity available to them.  Being fired or skipping town would cause a problem for the coach or school.  That’s calculated into the contract, into the written handshake.  “If you leave us early, you owe us $X.”  In some cases, the opportunity arises where it’s worth the financial hit to make the change.  Sometimes the new school, the new place of employment, will front that cost, as the coach is worth that much to them.  Whatever the case, both the school and the coach know what they’re getting into, what the risks and consequences will be.  They know the score; however, the typical fan does not and is left scratching their head when the coach leaves, maybe even to a rival.  Why is that?


The answer again goes to consistency, in this case a lack of it.  The fan’s dream is not necessarily the coach’s dream.  The fans want to see their alma mater become a national champion.  The coach wants to win.  Those goals may be similar, but they are not the same.  If they were, Lou Holtz would’ve coached at Kent State, Urban Meyer at Cincinnati and Pete Carroll at University of the Pacific.  The fan must recognize that sport is a job and a business for both coaches and universities.  Like all workers and businesses, when opportunity knocks you evaluate it and if it is worth it to change, you do so.


A contract is always a contract; the devil’s in the details, which most of us don’t see.