"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Friday, April 01, 2011

Buzz's New Deal

According to the official Marquette press release, two days ago Buzz Williams signed his new contract to remain the coach of the Marquette Warriors. Per school policy, Marquette has not revealed the terms of the agreement, however, Rosiak's blog post fills in the whispers. From Rosiak, "it's believed the contract will again be in the form of a rollover and pay Williams in excess of $2 million annually".

We think this is (obviously) great news.

Buzz definitely ends up very well in the new arrangement. With an annual roll-over contract, he gets what is essentially a lifetime contract with minimum downside. One may argue that a rollover contract minimizes his upside. However, the fact that it's been renegotiated each year suggests his upside can be maximized further as well. While it's speculation, Buzz probably got a reduced buyout as part of the deal as well.

Clearly, Marquette is comfortable with a higher-level of long-term risk with Buzz Williams. Marquette certainly gave their head coach plenty, placing his salary into (and beyond) many of college basketball's elite coaches on top of rolling it over year-to-year. Still, one key question is what Buzz gave up in the contract.

Currently, Georgia Tech is experiencing the downside of a rollover contract, as they are now on the hook to Paul Hewitt for a substantial sum, perhaps as much as $5M over the next seven years. On Twitter, Todd Rosiak confirmed that the Buzz contract is"exactly like Hewitt's", though Buzz is set to be paid a much higher annual salary. It is also notable that Hewitt signed his lucrative deal after leading the Yellow Jackets to the 2004 Final Four whereas Buzz earned his after a Sweet 16 appearance.

We believe Steve Cottingham is a competent and professional negotiator. There had to be more that Buzz conceded in the contract other than, "I won't look at Oklahoma". Perhaps the buyout, previously rumored at $3.8M, stayed relatively large with the new deal, affording MU a great amount of institutional control.

The most important signal from a contract this size is one of increased expectations. The layperson will probably wonder what Buzz has done to deserve a contract that is one of the top twenty contracts in the country. Despite the successes, Marquette has not been an elite, top twenty program the last three years. In addition, anyone that has a potential gripe with the program also now has additional ammunition to state, "Buzz is getting how much per year and we ..... ". Regardless of those looking to complain, increased expectations for the program are well deserved.

However, while Marquette would have been fine had Buzz elected to move on, there is no disputing the value of continuity.
This contract helps demonstrate Marquette's continued commitment to the basketball program. Almost every program thinks they can pull in a better head coach than they really can. The tizzy that occurred when rumors increased about Arkansas and Oklahoma highlighted the potential concern about starting with yet another new coach.

Honestly, Buzz has managed to represent Marquette well, stock the roster with highly ranked recruits, developed a high-quality offense year after year, and make the NCAA tournament each year. Oh yeah... and a Sweet Sixteen. Fix the defense and Marquette is near-elite.

Again, this contract says Marquette will continue to invest the necessary financial commitment to successfully compete in the toughest basketball conference in the country. Not all conference members can say that. Congratulations to all parties for making this deal happen quickly and without drama.

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