When Texas A&M extended Jimbo Fisher’s contract just days before the Aggies kicked off the 2021 season, the program’s outlook was rosy.
The team had just come off its best season under Fisher, a 9-1 campaign with a top-five finish in the polls, just its second such finish since joining the SEC in 2012. Recruiting was surging, and the class that Fisher and his staff were assembling that summer would eventually become the highest-rated in the internet recruiting rankings era.
After signing Fisher to a 10-year, $75 million contract in 2017 to lure him away from Florida State, Texas A&M doubled down in September 2021, extending him through 2031 to the tune of nearly $95 million, fully guaranteed.
“Coach Fisher continues to demonstrate he is building our program for long-term success and he is a perfect fit for Texas A&M,” athletic director Ross Bjork said then in a statement that accompanied the news of Fisher’s extension. “There is momentum in all phases of our program and we are excited about what lies ahead for Aggie Football.”
Fisher, in a statement of his own that lauded A&M’s investment and support, concluded it with, “It is an honor to be the Head Football Coach at Texas A&M and although I am proud of the strides we’ve made, we ain’t done yet!”
More than two years later, Fisher is done. Texas A&M fired Fisher on Sunday. The Aggies went 45-25 in Fisher’s six seasons in charge.
Since the program hit its 2020 peak and the extension was signed, Texas A&M is 19-15 overall, 10-13 against SEC competition and 12-14 against Power 5 opponents. Since 2021, the Aggies are 4-10 in games decided by eight points or less and have lost seven such games in a row. Texas A&M hasn’t won a true road game since Oct. 16, 2021, a skid of nine straight losses. The Aggies are a disappointing 6-4 this fall.
With the Aggies showing no considerable positive progress in Year 6 of the Fisher era, Texas A&M decided to part ways with Fisher, despite more than $77 million remaining on his contract. Although Fisher’s massive buyout has become a popular punchline in discussions of the Aggies’ predicament, there is one aspect of it that has often been overlooked: They don’t have to fork it over all at once.
Fisher’s contract explains the buyout’s payment schedule as follows:
“University shall pay twenty five percent (25%) of such amount in a lump sum within (60) days of the effective date of termination of the Agreement, and the remaining balance shall be paid to Coach in equal annual payments beginning one hundred twenty (120) days after the effective date of the termination of this agreement and continuing through the original end date of this Agreement, December 31, 2031.”
What does that mean for Texas A&M now that it is firing Fisher? The Aggies don’t have to write Fisher a $77 million check immediately.
In the short term, Texas A&M must write Fisher two checks in the span of four months. The first, due within 60 days of contract termination, would be for $19.3 million. The second, due within 120 days of termination, would be the first of eight annual payments for the rest of the contract: $7.2 million.
In total, the Aggies owe Fisher $26.6 million by March 11, 2024. It’s certainly not chump change, but it’s much more manageable than if the entirety of the contract were due up front. The rest will be paid out in annual installments of $7.2 million from 2025 through 2031, meaning the Aggies would basically pay two head coaches for the next eight years.
Fisher’s predecessor, Kevin Sumlin, had a lump sum payment to end his deal: The entirety of what remained on the five-year, $30 million contract he signed late in the 2013 season was owed to him within 60 days. When he was terminated following the 2017 season, the school fulfilled that obligation with a one-time payment of $9.9 million early in 2018, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Here’s a breakdown of what the payment structure will be like for the rest of Fisher’s contract, which runs through Dec. 31, 2031:
Total buyout: $77,562,500
Lump sum (25%) owed (within 60 days): $19,390,625
Eight payments, starting no later than March 11, 2024 and continuing annually through 2031: $7,271,484
Even the short-term money that Texas A&M owes outpaces the largest buyout known to be paid to a fired coach: $21.4 million to former Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. And that doesn’t account for the money it would take the program to hire a new head coach and staff, which would be substantial.
If a potential new head coach’s salary and staff pool meets what A&M is currently paying for its staff (a combined $17 million annually), making a change takes more than $40 million in salaries over the next calendar year when accounting for Fisher’s buyout. Even for an athletic department as flush with cash as the Aggies — Texas A&M pulled in $193 million in revenue and had $177 million in expenses in 2022 — it’s hard to stomach.
Still, A&M leadership had seen enough. Fisher is out, but the Aggies ain’t done paying him yet, and won’t be for another eight years.
(Photo: Bob Levey / Getty Images)