Hey, y'all wanna see Deion Sanders' contract at Jackson State?

Sanders isn't making a gazillion dollars to coach in the FCS. But this deal is pretty unique in some other big ways.

Good evening, and thanks for spending part of your weekend with Extra Points.

Normally, I don’t send these newsletters out in the evening. They typically publish around 4 AM, God’s Time Zone. But I picked up an interesting document via public records request that I figured some of you may want to read about before Monday.

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Late on Friday evening, Jackson State sent over a copy of Deion Sanders’ new deal, obtained via a public records request.

Most coaching contracts are pretty standardized. But this particular contract stood out to me in a few places. Let me walk you through what I see here.

First, the topline data. How much is Sanders going to make?

Per the contract, Sanders will make an annual base salary of $300,000. Over the course of his four-year deal, that comes out to $1,200,000.

Every single FBS head coach makes more than that, but $300,000 is about what a typical FCS head coach makes. Honestly, that’s not much more than Jackson State would have paid to anybody else they could have potentially hired.

But that’s just the base. And this contract has plenty of interesting incentives.

Performance incentives are standard in just about every college football contract. Here are some of the ways Sanders can earn a little extra money:

  • Beat an FBS opponent? That’s a $25,000 bonus.

  • Win a SWAC East Title? $10,000 bonus.

  • Win the whole dang SWAC? $30,000 bonus.

  • Win the Celebration Bowl? That’s a $50,000 bonus. Given the uncertain state of the MEAC, the other HBCU-dominated league, it’s not a given that the Celebration Bowl will exist over the duration of this contract, or at least, maybe not in its current form.

  • If Jackson State posts a single-year APR score above 970? Sanders earns a $5,000 bonus.

That’s all relatively standard. But these other two incentives really stood out to me.

Sanders gets a cut if Jackson State sells a bunch of tickets

The contract states that if the number of tickets sold for such games is greater than 30,000 tickets, the University shall pay to Head Coach an amount equal to ten percent (10%) of the Game Ticket Sales Revenue.

I feel pretty comfortable assuming that as soon as it is safe to sell 30,000 tickets to a Jackson State football game, they’re going to be able to do that, easily. According to the official NCAA numbers, Jackson State actually led all of FCS last year in average attendance, with 33,762 a game. They’ve been in the top five in FCS attendance for the last several years. The Tigers can cram over 60,000 people in the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium, and again, assuming some sort of vaccine or treatment that would allow for this, getting 40,000 a game multiple times a season is not out of the question.

Sanders also gets 10% of the total Season Ticket Sales Revenue, if the team sells over 10,000 season tickets. That could very well be an additional five-figure bonus.

This sort of arrangement isn’t unheard of (John Heisman actually had a gate-sharing clause back in his contract), but it certainly isn’t common.

Sanders also gets $100,000 if Jackson State ends up moving to a different football conference. Perhaps even more importantly, the school commits to making sure their football budget is greater than at least 50% of the other schools in the league. If Jackson State is actively looking at another FCS football home, that would be news to me, but perhaps that’s part of the larger vision Sanders sold to the school’s administration.

I think you can look at those clauses in a few different ways. One might say these are creative ways for a school that doesn’t have a ton of money to give a little extra scratch to a big name coach that is likely to help sell plenty of tickets, at least in the short term. One could also say that they’re inappropriate, seeing as Jackson State’s actual football players won’t get a bonus for playing well enough to sell more tickets, or for getting good grades. One could also wonder, what is the point of all the ticket sale incentive clauses? Sanders is already rich, and finding a way to get him another $20,000 wouldn’t prevent him from taking another job. Couldn’t Jackson State’s athletic department benefit more from that ticket windfall?

So what happens if Sanders gets fired?

This is a legitimate question. The learning curve from the high school level to D1, even at the FCS level, is steep. There are plenty of well-coached programs in the SWAC that would love nothing more than to humiliate the new guy in the league, especially since humble and demure aren’t really words used to describe Deion Sanders. There’s also the fact that the last time Sanders was in charge of a program, it went down in flames of scandal.

If the school fires Sanders without cause before December 15, 2021, they owe him the entire balance left on his contract. If they fire him after that, they owe him 12 months of his base salary, or $300,000.

With cause, of course, is a different story. The school can terminate the entire agreement in the event of some of the following events:

  • Head Coach's conviction of or a plea to any felony criminal offense; or Head Coach's commission of any violation of law or conduct constituting moral turpitude which results in material injury to the reputation of the University.

  • If Head Coach significantly violates the material rules, regulations, or standards of the University or federal or local laws.

  • If Head Coach or, with the knowledge or authorization of Head Coach, the Football program is implicated in activities, that create the appearance of impropriety, actual conflicts of interest, or otherwise generating reoccurring negative publicity for the University, and such that is seriously prejudicial to the best interests of the University or its athletic program or which violates the University's mission;

  • If Head Coach or the Football program is involved in any significant or repetitive violation of NCAA rules or regulations.

  • If Head Coach engages in conduct that constitutes moral turpitude or breaches the high moral and ethical standards applicable to the Head Coach of the Football program as a visible representative of the University.

  • if Head Coach fails to promptly report to the Director of Athletics a violation of NCAA rules when Head Coach had actual knowledge, or in his capacity as Head Football Coach, should have reasonably known of such violation which likely will result in a Level I or Level II violation.

That’s not an exhaustive list, but generally, if Jackson State gets in NCAA hell, or if Sanders embarrassed the institution, the school could try to get out of the entire contract. Generally, when a coach gets fired, even if they clearly did something egregiously wrong, the lawyers get involved and some sort of settlement comes out, but there’s a Prime Prep Part II situation, Jackson State has some protection, at least on paper.

There are a few other potentially interesting bits in the full contract, which you can download here:

https://www.scribd.com/document/480384526/JSU-Head-Football-Coach-Contract-Deion-Sanders-Fully-Executed

I don’t know if the Sanders era at Jackson State will be successful. But I do know it won’t be boring. Shoot, even the contract was interesting.

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