What’s The Deal? Johnson and Ash Contracts

This is a time of upheaval in college football, and that is more than evident in the contracts Ohio State awarded to Buckeye assistants Larry Johnson and Chris Ash.

Their deals actually anticipate the possible dissolution of the NCAA.* In a footnote, the university defines the NCAA as “the National Collegiate Athletic Association and its successors.” (Emphasis added.)

This isn’t totally new. Urban Meyer’s contract signed in 2012, for instance, also includes the same wording; and it’s more likely a reflection of lawyers trying to anticipate any eventuality than the school believing this is likely to happen.

However, for the first time, the university is also able to take into account the new college football playoffs. Johnson will receive a little over $65,000 for reaching a college football playoff game, Ash around $90,000. They’ll receive even more should they make the semi-finals, and more still should they win a semi-final game.

All bonuses are subject to a clawback provision that allows the Buckeyes to reclaim bonus money if a coach contributes to a violation that ends up with a victory/victories being vacated.


Johnson receives a base salary of $400,000 for the upcoming season. In year two of his contract, that jumps to $410,000. Meanwhile, Ash is set to make $520,000 before receiving a raise to $550,000. As the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported earlier, Ash’s salary at Arkansas was $550,000, so he clearly didn’t leave the Razorbacks for the money.

In addition, Ash had to pay reported buyout of $100,000** for leaving Arkansas, and OSU only covered $70,000 of that with a one-time “transition payment.”


Speaking of buyouts, Johnson and Ash will both have to fork over $30,000 if they depart Ohio State before December 2, 2015 to accept “a coaching position (with the exception of a head coaching position) for an NCAA Division 1 school in the Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Southeastern Conference (SEC), or the University of Notre Dame du Lac (Notre Dame) or Brigham Young University or in a coaching position (with the exception of a head coaching position) for a professional football team…”


Finally, Ohio State insulates itself from lawsuits with a provision that says if the Buckeyes terminate a coach without cause before their contract expires, and that coach accepts “post-termination benefits,” then they must sign a release agreeing they will not sue the school.

*Ohio State also includes a footnote that the Big Ten will mean either the Big Ten, its successor, or whatever conference of which OSU may be a member.

**UPDATE: Reading other reports, it appears the Jim Harris story neglects to take into account that Chris Ash’s $100,000 buyout for leaving Arkansas was prorated. So Ohio State’s transition payment probably did fully cover the cost of his parting company with Bret Bielema.

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