Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Severability Clauses in Head Football Coaches' Contracts

Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Severability Clauses in Head Football Coaches' Contracts

Article excerpt


The salaries of head coaches at Division I schools in the sports of men's and women's basketball and football have been discussed, analyzed and scrutinized in recent years. In men's basketball, the volatile comments made by University of Connecticut's head coach Jim Calhoun when asked about his $1.6 million salary attracted a great deal of national attention (McCarthy, 2009). Nick Saban's lucrative and unprecedented contract ($4 million per year) with the University of Alabama sent shockwaves throughout the world of college football (Upton, 2007). In women's basketball, head coach Pat Summit of the University of Tennessee and the University of Connecticut's head coach Geno Auriemma, each of whom makes more than $1 million dollars annually, set the bar for women's basketball coaches' salaries (Weiberg and Upton, March 2007). Even Myles Brand, the former NCAA president who passed away in 2009, voiced his concern about the large salaries given to high profile college coaches by asking rhetorically whether paying high salaries to head coaches was the proper approach to compensating employees within an academic context (Weiberg and Upton, December 2007). While there has been a great deal written in mass media about what some consider extremely high salaries for high profile college coaches, comparatively little attention has been given to the various components that are involved in drafting a coach's agreement.

Athletics has been referred to as the front door to a university (Rhoden, 2008). If this is true, then the football program's role within the context of a university is critically important because of its potential to generate large amounts of revenues and goodwill for the institution amongst alumni and fans. While there is plenty of debate regarding the revenue, expenses, and profitability associated with college football programs, football brings a significant amount of money each fall into most major athletic departments (Greenberg and Smith, 2007). Schools such as the University of Notre Dame, the University of Texas, and the University of Georgia all generated over $40 million dollars in football related revenue during the 2006-2007 academic year (Schwartz, 2007).

As result, it is important that schools do what they can to protect themselves from a successful coach leaving their institution due to employment contract issues. Also, coaches earn a living in a workplace environment that lends itself to job insecurity (Greenberg, 2001). Consequently, a well written contract that includes a severability clause can protect the interests of both the university and coach should a provision in the employment agreement be deemed as invalid. Since an employment contract is the tool used to bind the coach and university, a severability clause can be useful in protecting both sides if a provision of the contract is called into question. With the preceding paragraphs as a backdrop, this study will focus on the severability clauses contained in the head football coaches' contracts of schools in the final Associated Press Top 25 Poll of 2008.

According to Black (2009), a severability clause keeps the remaining provisions of a contract or statute in effect if any language in the contract or statute is judicially declared invalid, illegal, unconstitutional or unenforceable. Consequently, an analysis of the severability clauses contained in the head football contracts in this study reveal the care and attention that some schools provide to ensuring that the remaining portions of an employment agreement with the coach remain in force in the event that any scrutiny is given to a particular provision or provisions of the employment contract. Additionally, this study will show the severability clause language that universities with successful football programs use in their head football coach's employment agreements.


While no studies could be found devoted to severability clauses in contracts in general or severability clauses in sport employment contracts in particular, the issue of severability clauses in sport employment contracts has been the subject of law review articles and papers outside of a sport employment contract context. …

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