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Cleveland On Coach Larry Fedora

North Carolina fired former Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora Sunday. But shed no tears for Fedora. The Tar Heels will pay Fedora $12.2 million over the next four years — not to coach.

That’s right: Fedora will make slightly more than $3 million per year through 2021, and he doesn’t have to even set his alarm clock. He doesn’t have to draw any Xs and Os. He doesn’t have to blow his whistle. Heck, with direct deposit, he doesn’t even have to go to the bank.

At 56, Fedora is set for life.

That’s not bad work if you can get it.

And Fedora is not alone in the coaching world.

Texas Tech fired Kliff Kingsbury over the weekend, and, compared to North Carolina, the Red Raiders got off easily. They only have to pay Kingsbury $4.2 million over the next two years.

Louisville doesn’t get off nearly so good. Earlier this month, Bobby Petrino was fired when the Cardinals were 2-8. Louisville owes Petrino $14 million over the next four years.

You ask me, Louisville had it coming. They hired Petrino even after he was fired, for highly publicized cause, at Arkansas. What’s more, when Louisville hired Petrino, they hired a coach who had left them one year into a 10-year contract in 2006.

Former Ole Miss assistant Mike MacIntyre, who has been a candidate for head coaching jobs in Mississippi, was fired last week by Colorado. He is owed over $10,000,000.

Folks, we are talking about a lot of zeroes here.

Remember Bret Bielema? Arkansas fired him last year, knowing it owed him $12 million through 2020. Put that in some monthly perspective. For doing nothing, Bielema gets a check for $320,000 a month through Dec. 31, 2020.

Also last year, Texas A&M bought out Kevin Sumlin for $10 million, Florida negotiated a $7.5 million buyout Jim McElwain, and Tennessee agreed to pay Butch Jones over $8 million not to coach anymore.

Keep in mind Arkansas, Florida, Texas A&M and Tennessee, saddled with more than $37 million, collectively, in coaches buyouts, still had to hire new coaches and pay them similarly. I know the SEC Network has been a financial godsend, but we’re still talking some big, big money here.

How does this keep happening?

Well, let’s take the case of Fedora, who led Southern Miss to the 2011 Conference USA, and then bolted quickly for North Carolina.

Fedora’s first three seasons at North Carolina were pretty good, considering he took over a probation-plagued program. The Tar Heels went 8-4, 7-6 and 6-6 in 2012-14. But in 2015, North Carolina zoomed to 11-3. The Tar Heels were 8-5 and finished second in their division in 2016.

Fedora was seen as a hot commodity. Coaching changes were being discussed all over the country, including at Texas and Texas A&M. Fedora is from College Station, Texas. His name kept popping up in those discussions.

North Carolina was proactive. They feared losing him and paid dearly to keep him. In 2017, Fedora got a contract extension with a fat raise through 2021. In the two seasons since, North Carolina has finished 3-9 and 2-10 and the Tar Heels have decided they’d rather pay Fedora not to coach.

Similarly, when Bielema was fired at Arkansas, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn was said to be at the top of the list of possible replacements. “We can’t have this,” Auburn higher-ups presumably thought.

And so, Auburn unbelievably agreed to pay Malzahn $49 million over the next seven years, including $6.75 million this year. If Auburn fired Malzahn today it would cost Auburn over $32 million.

Auburn finished 7-5 overall and 3-5 in the SEC this season, good for fifth place in the SEC West.

And there reportedly have been discussions about whether to keep or fire Malzahn. As the old saying goes, pretty soon we’ll be talking about some real money.

Email syndicated columnist Rick Cleveland at rcleveland@mstoday.org.

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Adam Brown
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