Firing a Coach, at a Price, with Little Evidence the Move Pays Off

The New York Times reported on recent moves by colleges to spend millions to replace their football coaching staff — moves  that will result in reduced funding to academics and other sport programs.

The Times reported on the decision at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville to cancel the $18 million transfer the athletics department had pledged to academics and instead, use the funds to cover the $5 million severance package for its head football coach and a reported $4 million in severance for its assistant coaches. In addition, the University of Auburn will pay $11 million to buy out the contracts for its head and assistant football coaches. Notably, its team won the football championship in 2010.

The high stakes in major college football appear to be accelerating the turnover rate for coaches despite a recent scientific study that show different results are not guaranteed with the high-priced coaching changes.  The Times noted that “over the past decade, about 1 in 10 universities at the major college level replaced their head football coaches annually for performance-related reasons. But a recent study suggests that replacements do not tend to make under-performing teams much better in subsequent seasons and frequently make them worse.”

E. Scott Adler, an associate professor of political science at the University of Colorado, was the lead author of the study, which was published last month in Social Science Quarterly.

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