Ok, so it took me a bit to wrap my head around this. I thought for certain that everyone was looking into it wrong. I read the AL.com article by Brandon Marcello real quick before I had to go teach my History of the US Army class this afternoon, so I skimmed it and thought "eh, that seems pretty normal."
Then I got back and argued my thoughts in the comments here for a bit before a DM with WarRoom Eagle actually made me re-examine the article in detail and discover that the contract was NOT what I initially suspected.
Jay Jacobs has been Auburn's athletic director since December 2004. The last contract he signed - which AL.com examined in the article above - was from 2011. That contract was for five years, with an option to tack on an extra year at the end of every academic year.
I initially read that as "five-year contract, with options to renew each year following the end of the initial terms." That seemed pretty standard to me, so that's how I interpreted it in my rush to get my class materials and walk downstairs. However, it appears those are NOT the terms. The terms - which Marcello clearly says he confirmed through an administration official as being correct - are that it was a five-year contract, with an option to add a year on at the end of every academic year beginning with the first one.
WHAT?!? WHO AGREES TO THAT DEAL!?!?!?
Ok, I don't have experience with contracts. Maybe this is typical. But it seems like pure lunacy, to me, to tie yourself to someone for five more years at the end of every year. A lot of things can change in five years. A lot can change in one year. Things can change overnight!
I'm sure there's a "with cause" option to fire Jacobs if needed, but if he's just fired because Auburn isn't happy with the performance of Auburn Athletics, then the school owes him his base salary for every year remaining on his contract. It just so happens that this would be the same amount every year since 2011. The buyout never decreases unless there is a year where the school does not pick up the option to add an extra year at the end of a particular academic year.
I don't know what's worse, the thought that Auburn signed this deal in the first place or the thought that the extra year has been added every year over the last five years. It's quite clear that it has, though, since Marcello confirmed that the current contract extends to 2020 and could be extended to 2021 this June. Wrap your head around the fact that even with Chizik, Barbee, Golloway, and other issues, Jay Jacobs' contract has been extended at the end of every year.
I should add that I'm not on the "Fire Jacobs!" train. I'm not on the "we must keep Jay Jacobs!" train. I'm indifferent. He's an excellent fundraiser, but I've always been very puzzled about some of the hires we've made and the terms of our coaches' contracts. I think there are legitimate arguments to be made for and against him. I do think that seventeen years - which is how long he'll have been Auburn's AD at the end of his current contract - is too long for someone to be in that job, though.
That being said, do you really think Jacobs' contract deserved to be extended following the 2012/13 academic year? That year saw the Chizik disaster, Barbee's basketball teams were obviously failing (he'd be fired at the end of the next year), and we had to fire our baseball and softball coaches. Sure, he'd hired Gus Malzahn (a committee was set up to help) and Clint Myers (which circumstances fell into his lap to hire the perfect and best possible coach), and Sunny Golloway seemed like a great hire, too, but they weren't certainties right then. Wasn't there enough question for the school to say "we're going to hold off on just going ahead and adding that year right now"?
I don't get it. How do you just automatically continuously tie yourself to someone for five years at the end of every year? Why not skip a year when there are questions that haven't been answered yet (like that 2012/13 year)? You still have him for four years guaranteed after that. You can still go back to extending it if the performance increases, but shouldn't you start to give yourself a little leeway to save some money if it becomes necessary to get rid of the Athletic Director? Isn't letting the buyout you owe for a position with that much power and influence remain virtually the same throughout their entire tenure grossly unresponsible?
I hope I'm missing something. I hope I just wasted close to 900 or so words pontificating on something that wasn't clearly explained in the first place. Y'all know I love Auburn and I'm about as much of a homer as you can get, but if this contract is actually set up like this and has been continuously extended every year since it's been signed, then someone has some explaining to do in the University's administration.
But, hey, I'm just a fan. I don't know the inner workings of universities and athletics departments. Maybe this is the norm around the country. It just sounds crazy, to me. What do you think?