Contracts show Ole Miss on the hook to pay four defensive coordinators this year
No other major college football team has struggled on defense this season quite like Mississippi, creating the temptation to make a lightbulb joke about just how badly the Rebels have been getting lit up on the field and off:
How many Mississippi defensive coordinators does it cost to change this lightbulb?
The answer this year is four, according to their employment contracts:
► One is Wesley McGriff, who was fired as the team’s defensive coordinator in November 2018. Mississippi still owed him at least $1.1 million per year through Jan. 31, 2021, minus any pay he’s receiving at his new job at Auburn (about $300,000 per year).
► Another is Mike MacIntyre, who served as the team’s defensive coordinator for one season in 2019 but wasn’t retained by new head coach Lane Kiffin in 2020. Mississippi still owed him $1.5 million per year through Jan. 31, 2022, minus the pay he’s receiving from his new job at Memphis ($420,000 base salary).
Ole Miss co-defensive coordinator DJ Durkin when he was head coach at Maryland. (Photo: Jesse Johnson, USA TODAY Sports)
► This year, D.J. Durkin and Chris Partridge are the Rebels’ co-defensive coordinators. They are making $700,000 and $625,000 annually through Jan. 31, 2022.
After winning just one of their first five games, their team this season ranks 100th out of 101 teams in yards allowed per game (556), 97th in points allowed per game (44.6), 98th in third-down conversion defense (57.4%) and 97th in rushing yards allowed per game (256.8).
Coaching is only part of the equation. The Rebels’ roster on defense recently has been pared by injury and COVID-19 issues, including two starters who missed the last two games because of contact tracing protocols. They’ve also had to play Alabama and Florida, two of the nation’s top offensive teams.
But the moral of the story seems clear: Firing coaches can be expensive, with no guarantee the next set of coaches will fare any better.
“We’re playing a little bit better defense,” Kiffin said Monday on a video teleconference, noting improvement from earlier this season, when he stated that “there ain't a lot of positive things to find there” after giving up 51 points to Florida.
The school didn’t respond to a message seeking comment on the coordinators' compensation. The Ole Miss Athletics Foundation, a private fundraising arm for athletics, said in an audited financial statement this year that it has agreed to support severance and separation agreements with former athletics personnel. It said the amount paid for these agreements was $983,727 for the fiscal year ending June 2019 and $8.6 million for the fiscal year ending June 2020, about seven months after the university fired Matt Luke, Kiffin’s predecessor as head coach.
In fiscal year 2021, the foundation said it expects to pay $3.5 million for such severance.
Both McGriff and MacIntyre had language in their Mississippi contracts that called for them to use pay from any new jobs they got after Mississippi to reduce what they were owed by Mississippi until their contracts with the Rebels ended. Even though that amount is only a fraction of what Mississippi owed them, this mitigation arrangement helps Mississippi reduce that expense over time instead of paying the departed coaches a lump sum to break their contracts earlier.
In the meantime, there is hope for these run-down Rebels. They play this Saturday at Vanderbilt (0-3), a team that ranks 97th in scoring with just 8.7 points per game.
Contributing: Steve Berkowitz
Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: [email protected]
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