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Situation regarding Weis' compensation from Notre Dame grossly overblown

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis glances at the scoreboard in the third quarter against Baylor.

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis glances at the scoreboard in the third quarter against Baylor. by Nick Krug

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.

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Comments

David A. Smith 3 months, 1 week ago

It's no secret that Weis has people that would rather not see him do well and don't like him. I personally have the highest regard for the guy, and can't wait for the day that winning takes hold here. I love what he has brought here- the swag, the brilliant mind for football, and the surprisingly humble approach that will prove to be the X factor in KU's turn around.

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Lucas Town 3 months, 1 week ago

It's not that anyone from or fans of KU wants to see him fail. I just can't believe the state of the program that he inherited. His track record as a head coach just doesn't lead me to believe that the change will happen too soon. We will take a step back after this senior class leaves.

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Scott Oswalt 3 months, 1 week ago

Charlie Weis has "swag"? That's hilarious! I want to like the guy, but he's not a proven head coach. I'm tired of seeing KU in the basement of the Big 12. If they can't win a few more conference games this year, I will no longer buy season tickets.

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Tom Keegan 3 months, 1 week ago

I saw somewhere a question about whether KU is still paying Turner Gill. At the time he was fired, he had three years and $6 million remaining on his deal. It was structured in a way that KU had to pay all of it off within 90 days. They paid him off right away. Two years before that, KU bought out Mangino for $3 million. So they never have been paying three coaches at once, but did burn $9 million in buyouts for football coaches.

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Michael Maris 3 months, 1 week ago

Good post Tom. Some people just can't seem to remember this information (for some reason). Hopefully, better times are ahead for the Jayhawk Football program. I know I look forward to better football seasons coming from Lawrence, Kansas.

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Greg Ledom 3 months, 1 week ago

Matt, I love your writing and all your coverage and efforts to keep us out here in Jayhawk land up to speed on the various goings on. That said, I thought this article was a waste of your time to put together. I honestly don't care and doubt many do. Let's get our program back on solid footing.

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Jim Jackson 3 months, 1 week ago

Completely disagree, thought it was a very pertinent article since our head coach is constantly under scrutiny and this is one of the reasons.

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Aaron Paisley 3 months, 1 week ago

It's because this story is making it's annual rounds on the national outlets.

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Jenny Brown 3 months, 1 week ago

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Chris Bailey 3 months, 1 week ago

Where did the question about Turner Gill go? I'd like to know that answer as well. Did he have an offset clause? Seems as though we paid him in full.

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Matt Tait 3 months, 1 week ago

If I recall correctly, the buyout trumped the offset clause so he got the full $6 million within 90 days. I do know his assistant coaches had offset clauses in there contracts and that saved KU some money. Maybe not millions but hundreds of thousands for sure.

Not sure what happened to the original question. I'll take a look. We continue to have periodic issues with our comments and are still working to fix them.

Thanks!

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Doug Merrill 3 months, 1 week ago

The only question of the points made in the article that I would venture is the statement that the ND attorney "failed" or "forgot" to put in the offset clause. The more likely scenario is that Weis and his attorney refused any contract that had one in it.

If a corporation is private (not bound by legislated employment restrictions) and so has the leeway to freely negotiate, and they really want someone, such a clause can and has been eliminated in many contracts.

Honestly there is no reason that a corporation or team or school should be able to demand it. If they are guaranteeing your contract as a means to get and keep you, but then decide to fire you, it should have no bearing on that guarantee if you are able to go out and land a great job elsewhere...they guaranteed the contract 'as is'.

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Matt Tait 3 months, 1 week ago

I was told by multiple people that the clause wasn't included in there and even read a report in the South Bend Tribune that cited sources saying the same thing.

I also know that the lawyer in question no longer represents Notre Dame athletics, for what that's worth.

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David Gisi 3 months, 1 week ago

Doug, you are correct in questioning that. The simple truth is that when ND put together the massive contract extension for Weis, they were all to eager to put everything on the table, including the kitchen sink. Weis was riding the waves of the incredible hype that he came in with, a couple unexpectedly great seasons, and incredible recruiting. There was a legitimate threat of Weis bolting for the NFL and ND was scared of losing him. Weis and his agent had all the chips and played them perfectly. That contract was not about a lawyer forgetting to put the clause in, but rather about ND believing it didn't need the clause in. They put that extension on the table in a hurry, because all the powers at ND took a "keep him here at any cost" mentality into it. I would contend that if you look at where ND football was before Weis came and where it is now, it is easy to make an argument that they made a very good investment in Weis. ND was on the verge of football irrelevance before Weis came. I don't think Weis is a very good head coach, but he does deserve a lot more credit than he gets for where ND football is now. I think Brian Kelly is a better coach, but he would not be getting the kind of recruits he is getting if it were not for the groundwork laid by Charlie Weis.

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Jim Stauffer 3 months ago

It is just for the obvious reasons this article intimates that I am happy Weis is here. He knows when he is in the driver's seat and uses that knowledge to his advantage. I am certain we will see occasions as soon as this year where our team will have the advantage on opponents and will use it wisely.

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