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UCLA Basketball: The Truth About the Steve Alford Buyout [UPDATED]

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Let’s get this straight. Steve Alford will make the same amount of money whether UCLA fires him today or on May 1st.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Four Practice
Steve Alford is laughing all the way to the bank whether he is fired now or in May.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

A little while ago, respected college basketball writer Adam Zagoria tweeted the following:

I know that I’ve explained this before, but I’m going to explain again for anyone reading Twitter and believing Zagoria’s statement to be accurate because it isn’t.

Steve Alford will be paid the same amount of money by UCLA whether he is fired today or fired in May.

Yes, you read that right. I’ll write it again so you know there is not a typo. Steve Alford will be paid the same amount of money by UCLA whether he is fired today or fired in May.

“But....wait!?! How can that be? I thought the buyout goes down every year?” you ask.

Technically, it does go down. In fact, it goes down a little each month, but that’s only because Alford gets a paycheck each month.

Here’s Alford’s contract with extensions included:

If you scroll to page 18, you will find the most recent buyout clause for termination without cause. The section which everyone focuses on incorrectly is the section where it delineates what the University pays if it terminates without cause prior to...and each bullet point has a date.

At this point, we are past April 30, 2018. So, bullet point I is moot. That leaves bulletpoints II, III, and IV as being in play. We’re going to ignore IV because that doesn’t matter for the sake of this argument either.

Bulletpoint II states:

If the University terminates this agreement without cause prior to April 30, 2019, the amount of $3,600,000, paid in substantially equal monthly installments through April 30, 2021.

Bulletpoint III states:

If the University terminates this agreement without cause prior to April 30, 2019, the amount of $1,000,000, paid in substantially equal monthly installments through April 30, 2021.

But here’s what everybody seems to miss. It’s in the language directly above:

The parties hereto agree that, this right to terminate is exercised, University shall only be obligated to pay as follows: The amount of Base Salary, Talent Fee and Deferred Compensation identified in Sections 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3 of this Agreement in the remainder of the contract year (ending April 30) in which the termination occurred; and

It then goes on to list the bulletpoints I mentioned previously.

So, let’s do some math that even a North Campus major can understand. Shall we?

Alford’s base salary and talent fee total $2.6M per year. If you divide that by 12 months, Alford is paid $216,666.67 per month.

At this point, Alford has been paid (or will be paid tomorrow) $1,733,333.33 for this contract year which began on May 1, 2018. He is owed $866,666.67 for the remainder of the contract year. Let’s look at exactly how much Alford is owed in a spreadsheet where it will be easier to see visually.

The Myth of the Vanishing Steve Alford Buyout

How Alford Gets Paid If Alford is fired on 12/31/2018 If Alford is fired on May 1, 2019
How Alford Gets Paid If Alford is fired on 12/31/2018 If Alford is fired on May 1, 2019
Amount paid as Salary to do his job $0 $866,666.67
Amount remaining on the current contract year $866,666.67 $2,600,000.00
Bulleted Buyout Amount $3,600,000.00 $1,000,000.00
Total Paid to Steve Alford $4,466,666.67 $4,466,666.67

So, the reality is that, regardless of when Steve Alford stops coaching UCLA Bruins men’s basketball, he will still get paid the same amount of money.

There is one caveat to all this.

If Dan Guerrero fires Steve Alford now, UCLA does have to pay whomever becomes interim coach. That would presumably mean a significant raise for four months to Murry Bartow, Tyus Edney or someone else.

But, that isn’t what Zagoria’s source is saying. His source is saying that UCLA supposedly wants to wait until the buyout drops.

So, UCLA might not want to have to hire and pay an interim head coach, but, again, that’s not what is being said. What’s being said is that UCLA wants to wait for the buyout to drop. That’s nothing more than a PR move so that UCLA can say to donors, “We only paid Alford a $1M buyout when, in fact, the reality is that it would still be a $3.6M buyout because they would be on the hook for Alford’s salary for the contract year ending April 30, 2020, too.


Go Bruins. Fire Alford. TODAY!


UPDATE (11:43 pm PT): Multiple reports indicate that Steve Alford has been fired. While all of what’s written above was true, it appears that both sides opted to negotiate a deal which would supersede the terms of the contractual buyout listed in Alford’s contract and extensions above. There are some very good reasons why it would be beneficial for both parties to negotiate a buyout even though buyout terms were already in place in the contract and its extensions. I will go into this in further detail tomorrow afternoon.