With buyout money sky high, college football’s coaching carousel shaping up to be slow

A mere 12 months ago, the college football industry braced for one of the largest coaching realignments in recent memory. A combustible mix of cash-flush schools, angry fan bases and antsy coaches fueled a series of moves that would ultimately result in 20% of the Power Five programs welcoming a new coach in 2018.

But this fall, college football is acting more like a New Year’s Eve partygoer nursing a hangover on the couch with a bottle of Pedialyte. Everyone, it seems, needs a break. 

In several conversations across the industry this week with people who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the topic, a consensus on what the coaching carousel might look like has begun to emerge. Though Kansas got things started by making its long-anticipated firing of David Beaty official, the primary driver of college coaching movement is more likely to be the NFL than a rush of high-profile schools deciding it’s time for a change. 

Part of that slowdown is, quite simply, related to money. Though some athletics directors are finally admitting the industry has been fiscally irresponsible in giving coaches guaranteed buyouts that reach into the tens of millions, they are undoubtedly an effective deterrent to schools that might otherwise have a quick trigger. 

Buyouts loom large this year, in particular, at Southern California, Auburn and North Carolina, none of which are expected to change coaches despite disappointing seasons and growing fan unease.

One year after handing Gus Malzahn a 7-year, $49 million contract (about 75% of which was guaranteed), Auburn was never realistically going to fire him, something athletics director Allen Greene confirmed this week to Auburn Undercover. 

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