Earlier this week, a report from USA Today brought up that old story about Notre Dame paying Charlie Weis more in 2012 than it paid current Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly.
I'm not sure I get it.
For one, four seasons have passed since Weis last coached at Notre Dame and during each of the years a report like this has surfaced. We get it. Weis is still being paid by Notre Dame. A lot. But that's the way it's been and will continue to be until the end of their agreement. Everyone knows that. So why does it make headlines on it year after year?
For two, I'm not sure the report tells the entire story.
I remember talking to Weis about the details surrounding his departure from Notre Dame and the situation regarding his contract shortly after he arrived in Lawrence. At the time, it seemed like big news to me and I wanted to make sure I understood it fully — or at least as best I could.
Here's a brief summary of what my notes from those conversations included:
Because Notre Dame is a private institution, it does not have to make public all of the payments made to its head coaches. There is a number that goes down as reportable income for tax purposes, but that number is always a significant amount of money lower than the head football coach's total compensation. It's just that because Notre Dame is private it can pay its coaches in a different manner than a school like Kansas can and does.
Here, Weis receives an annual salary ($2.5 million) and brings home a monthly pay check. Although just $230,000 of that is considered his “base salary” all of it comes directly from Kansas Athletics, Inc., and is reported on KAI's federal taxes. According to Weis' contract with KU, the remaining $2,270,000 per year is for “professional services rendered” and is referenced in the contract at “Guaranteed Net Income.”
At Notre Dame, Weis said he received a relatively modest base salary directly from Notre Dame while the majority of his compensation came from other vendors tied to the athletic department — think payments for his TV show, radio show, clothing deals and money from any partnerships with companies like Nike, adidas, Under Armor or the like.
The biggest reason Weis is still being paid by Notre Dame at all is because the lawyer representing the university failed to include an offset clause in Weis' contract when the school hired him in 2005.
An offset clause, which is pretty common when it comes to coaching contracts at major universities, is a way for the university to save or recover at least part of what they owe a coach after he or she is fired.
In this case, in 2010, Weis took a job with the Kansas City Chiefs after being fired by Notre Dame in 2009. As outlined in the agreement between the two parties after his firing, Weis was scheduled to be paid $2.05 million annually from Notre Dame through 2015. Had an offset clause been included in that initial contract, the total amount given to Weis by Notre Dame from 2010-15 would have been drastically lower.
Let's say Weis made $1 million as the Chiefs' offensive coordinator in 2010. Instead of owing him $2.05 million for that year, Notre Dame would have owed him only the difference — $1.05 million. Furthermore, by the time he was hired at KU, where he brings home $2.5 million annually, an offset clause would have eliminated Notre Dame's payments to Weis altogether.
At the time, many people believed that former Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White, who hired Weis and now holds the same position at Duke, was responsible for botching the deal and creating a situation where the university owed Weis so much money for such a long period of time. In reality, it was the lawyer's failure to include the offset clause that cost Notre Dame the most.
Beyond that, the guy who really came out smelling like a rose in this whole deal was Weis' agent. He arranged and executed the deal of the century.
So what does all of this mean? In a nutshell, it's as simple as this: Despite what the reports and headlines might lead you to believe, Kelly did not receive less money in 2012 to be Notre Dame's football coach than Weis did not to be.
Yes, the money Weis received from Notre Dame ($2.05 million) was higher than Kelly's direct payment from the university ($1.46 million). But when you factor in Kelly's other compensation during the season that included an appearance in the BCS championship game Kelly's total haul was probably in the $3-4 million range.
From now probably until the rest of time, any reported dollar amount paid to a Notre Dame football coach is likely to be merely a portion of what the head coach brought home. According to the recent USA Today and Associated Press reports, which cited federal tax returns as the source, Kelly's base salary for the 2012 season was $698,140. Add to that more than $600,000 in performance and academic-based bonuses, which also were reported, and that's where the money changing hands directly between Kelly and Notre Dame stops. But it's hard to say that the other money does not count when you consider that Kelly only earned the rest because of his position as the Fighting Irish football coach.
If any of this interests you or matters in your world, you might as well just commit it to memory because the same story is going to pop up around this time next year and the year after that, as well, just as it has for the past four years. Why, I'm not sure.