You've seen the number. Gus Malzahn's buyout is gigantic. If Auburn fires their head coach after this season, they'd owe him about $32 million. But what is Malzahn's buyout in 2019? And throughout the remainder of his seven-year contract?
Scared of losing Malzahn to his alma mater Arkansas last year, Auburn signed the then-fifth-year head coach to a seven-year contract worth $49 million. The deal bumped his average annual salary from $4.725 million (2017) to $7 million. Malzahn's annual salary starts at $6.7 million for 2017 and increases by $100,000 each year, meaning he'd earn $7.3 million in 2024, the final year of his deal — if he gets there.
Auburn isn't firing Malzahn after the season. But if the Tigers struggle again in 2019, is the buyout substantially lower? Nope. Malzahn's buyout is 75 percent of the remaining value of the contract. After this year (his contract runs Jan. 1 through Dec. 31), there's $42.3 million remaining. Seventy-five percent of that amount is $31.725 million.
Here's a table of Malzahn's annual salary, remaining balance after that year and the buyout after that year. The buyout assumes, for simplicity's sake, that he'd be fired on Dec. 31 of that year. For example, as noted above, if fired on Dec. 31, 2018, he'd be owed 75 percent of the remaining $42.3 million, or $31.725 million. If fired on Dec. 31, 2019, he'd be owed $26.625 million.
If this year's buyout is too much, would approximately $27 million be too much next year? Probably. Things would have to be vomit-inducing bad for the Auburn football program for the school to pay nearly $27 million for Malzahn's buyout plus a potential buyout to the previous employer of his replacement plus his replacement's salary.
Auburn has to keep Malzahn for five more years to avoid paying a buyout of at least $10 million.