OPINION — Like It Is

Pitt buying in, not concerned with buyout

It was an off-handed remark last spring that didn't seem to really mean much at the time.

Super agent Jimmy Sexton remarked that Arkansas' triple-overtime win over Kansas in the Liberty Bowl had secured several million dollars more for Coach Sam Pittman if he were fired.

Fast forward to a six-game losing stretch, the firing of the offensive coordinator and coming off an embarrassing 7-3 loss to Mississippi State, there is no doubt a lot of fans consider Pittman on the hot seat.

He's probably not. But just in case, the Razorbacks would owe Pittman about 18 million or roughly 75% of what is left on his contract -- which is a bit over $6 million a year, including $1 million in retention bonuses even there is no retention.

If his overall winning record was under .500, it would have been 50% or $12 million.

Here's where it gets interesting: Pittman's first season was the covid year and he went 3-7. He was 9-4 in 2021, 7-6 in 2022 and is currently 2-6 this season. While that adds up to 21-22, the first season was thrown out and the .500 record started over in his second season.

Without the covid season, Pittman's record is 18-15, so all he as to do the remainder of this season to get the maximum payout is beat Florida International. A win over an FBS team that was 4-5 going into Saturday's game would cost the UA $6 million.

Ironically, it was suggested to the UA Board of Trustees during contract negotiations that just one more of Pittman's win total should be against a Power Five team. The BOT rejected the suggestion.

Sexton is a brilliant negotiator and just the threat of Pittman being hired away by another school has gotten the coach financial security for life.

Good for him, but not so good for a school that is still paying off Chad Morris and now will have to pay Dan Enos and they just paid off Bret Bielema. But that doesn't put the UA in very exclusive territory.

In the past 10 years, almost every SEC school has paid a coach to not coach at their school any more.

Three years ago it was Gus Malzahn, who Auburn paid more than $21 million to go away. He took the money and went away to the University of Central Florida. The Tigers are real War Eagles when it comes to buyouts. Their past five head coaches have been fired and bought out, and while it started with Terry Bowden, it was Tommy Tuberville who set the standard.

At the end of the 2008 season, he became the first buyout bonus baby with $5 million.

LSU paid Ed Orgeron $18 million to leave, and the list goes on and on.

Sexton -- who reportedly represents 11 of the SEC's head coaches, seven NFL coaches and several assistant coaches -- has made some of his clients wealthy for life after being fired.

Fired for not winning games, which is what they are paid to do.

When Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek was hired, he said he was against buyouts when he was hired, but that was before he had ever talked to Sexton who is a magician at playing athletic directors against each other.

Pittman said last week he isn't concerned about a buyout. He wants his job.

He wants a chance to patch the leaks in the boat.

What is just as glaring as six consecutive losses is how much money Arkansas athletics has wasted with Bielema, who was 11-29 in SEC play, and Morris, who was 0-16 in league play.

Pittman, who took over the program after it had gone 1-23 in SEC play the three previous seasons, has won 10 and that's an indication that at least he understands the SEC.

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