You thought Lovie Smith was hired on March 7, 2016.
Those of us who filed FOIAs that day, seeking the terms of his contract, were told we’d be mailed a copy when it was signed, and that we needn’t ask again.
So for a few months, some of us have been wondering when this day would arrive. And why the delay?
Lovie signed a “Term Sheet” on the weekend Josh Whitman delivered him to a stunned Illini nation.
Billy Gillispie operated under a similar device, labeled a “memorandum of understanding” during his brief tenure at Kentucky. (Gillispie’s eventual settlement with the Wildcats paid a fraction of what he’d have earned had he signed the seven-year offer left on the table.)
The Lovie contract runs 41 pages. There’s a strongly-worded clause about health and well-being of students (surprise, surprise) followed by a quizzical paragraph admonishing the coach to recruit good student-athletes.
It gets weirder and more interesting in 3.2.f , which states that the head football coach makes decisions about his staff’s continued employment and compensation subject to the approval of the athletic director, and then
Josh Whitman may be a Ron Guenther protégé, but he absorbed more about the power of contracts than Guenther.
Lovie will get a lot of perks. “Up to two late model vehicles” with paid liability and comprehensive insurance (cf. John Groce’s contract, which specifies a second car for his wife), a family membership to a local country club (why not just come out and say it? … the Champaign CC) and a maximum $25,000 reimbursement for moving his household.
He also gets 20 tickets to all football games, home and away, for his personal and family use. He gets the use of one west side Memorial Stadium suite, and two “VIP parking passes” for every home football game. He gets four tickets to every men’s basketball, women’s basketball and volleyball game. And a VIP parking pass for basketball games at State Farm Center.
The buyout terms are similarly friendly.
The penalty clauses seem obsessive. They probably aren’t the reason Matt Smith (Lovie’s son and agent) delayed signing for half a year. Ostensibly, Lovie doesn’t care about these clauses. He signed the contract.
But there are a number of activities which would void Lovie’s contract, costing him $19,000,000, yet are perfectly legal. The clause about drinking alcohol doesn’t mean Lovie can’t get drunk. It means he can’t be drunk on the job. Or under the influence of narcotics, steroids or other “chemicals” not prescribed by his physician.
Who’s to say whether and when he is “materially impair”ed by a chemical? I took a DayQuil geltab once. It made me feel odd.
The clause about betting on pro sports is a restraint on trade, albeit a trade that’s legal in few jurisdictions.
“The University,” as it’s identified in this agreement, covers its ass in ways unimagined by previous contracts with previous coaches. At the same time, it offers enormous remuneration and embarrassingly paltry yet delineated incentives to assistant football staff, arguably it’s downfall. Illinois still hasn’t figured out, evidently, that it can pay Hardy Nickerson and Garrick McGee amounts which might compel them to stay here for a while. That’s a huge problem, and one that most university departments had figured out by the Jimmy Carter Administration.
The Lovie contract refers to a pool of money for assistants. Competitive schools pay “pool” money to individuals.
The U does recognize the cost associated with an untimely departure of its head coach, in myriad clauses. The U seeks to defray those costs, in those clauses.
Does this seem too clausy? Why am I barraging you with incessant paragraphs when I could simply embed the entire contract?
Here it is, in full. Read it.
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