Ford's deal an overreaction
On Feb. 10 of this year, the Oklahoma State men’s basketball team was 14-9 overall, 3-6 in Big 12 play, the head coach was shouting f-bombs at his players, and several folks at OSU were tilting their heads, wondering if Travis Ford was the right hire.
Seven measly months later, the school is so enraptured with Ford, he now has a 10-year contract.
(Say and think what you will about former Cowboys coach Eddie Sutton, but the man returned OSU basketball to greatness, deserved twice as much pay as he ever got and never got close to being offered a 10-year deal.)
Before Ford arrived at Stillwater, he made $400,000 his final season at UMass. Starting this season, he’ll make $1.8 million with a guaranteed bump of at least $100,000 annually through the 2018-19 season. All this after going 23-12 and winning one NCAA Tournament game in his first season with the Cowboys.
Look, I’m all for giving a man his due, but is the 39-year-old Ford due this much this soon?
What if the Cowboys had knocked off Pittsburgh in the second round last season and advanced to the Sweet 16? Would Ford have broken the $2 million barrier and been given a lifetime contract?
Last season was the Cowboys’ first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2005, and for that Ford deserves credit. But so do his players, particuarly senior point guard Byron Eaton, who excelled at key moments down the stretch as OSU won nine of its final 12 games.
Ford’s new contract was an overreaction to what started in the football offices.
Basketball has a higher ceiling than football at OSU. Ford has a better chance at winning more conference or national championships than football does. There is really no debating this and Cowboys football coach Mike Gundy just signed a seven-year, $15.7 million deal.
If OSU is going to fork over big bucks for football coaches, yet the school has a greater chance for success in basketball, it had better offer at least as much to keep Ford on board. That’s precisely what happened, which is why Gundy and Ford will both make $1.8 million this season.
Ford now trails only Bill Self of Kansas ($3 million) and Rick Barnes of Texas ($2 million) in Big 12 coaching salaries. Meanwhile, Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel, who lost the South Regional final to eventual champion North Carolina last season, received a new deal in June, but will now make $300,000 less than Ford.
Ford was born, raised and played hoops in Kentucky and someday figures to be a candidate for the UK job, which he no doubt has used as leverage since the day he arrived in Stillwater.
To cover its asset, OSU bumped Ford’s buyout clause up from $1 million to $3 million. Doesn’t matter. If Kentucky wants Ford, it will get Ford.
Interestingly enough, the day Ford was hired at OSU (April 18, 2007), athletic director Mike Holder said he hoped Kentucky would someday want to hire Ford. “That’s a high-class problem to have,” Holder said that day.
Some prominent OSU boosters think Ford could win a national title coaching the Cowboys, and that might be true. But shouldn’t you offer that coach a 10-year contract after he wins the national title, not before?
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