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Charlie Strong still front-runner for USF but how can they afford to pay him?

Roy Cummings



Photo by Raymond Carlin/Icon Sportswire

TAMPA – A private plane reportedly belonging to University of Texas booster Gary H. Martin landed at Tampa International Airport around noon on Friday.

The question on everyone’s mind is whether that plane was carrying Charlie Strong, the former Texas coach who tops USF’s list of candidates for its head coaching vacancy.

As we told you first on Thursday afternoon, Strong is the Bulls top choice to replace Willie Taggart ,who bolted USF after four seasons on Wednesday for Oregon.

Bruce Feldman, Fox Sports College Football Insider, reports that Strong is in Tampa this afternoon and meeting USF officials including Athletic Director Mark Harlan.

The question everyone should be asking is how in the world can USF afford to pay Strong the kind of jack it will take to keep him here, assuming he ever actually arrived in the first place?

The answer is a bit complicated, but USF should be able to pull it off, in part because there’s a chance that in the short term they could wind up paying far Strong less than they paid former  Taggart in the first couple of years of his new deal.

When Strong, 56, was fired at Texas a few weeks ago his contract still had two years with a base salary of $5 million per year remaining on it and no buyout clause. And therein lies the key.

The absence of a buyout clause means Texas is on the hook for all of what’s left on Strong’s contract, which means USF could actually go low on a new salary should Strong actually agree to such a stipulation.

The only catch is that Strong’s contract reportedly contains a clause that calls for Strong to pay Texas 50-percent of whatever it is he earns in his new contract.

For example, if Strong agrees to a $2 million per-year deal with USF, he would be making slightly more than Taggart did but he would also owe Texas $1 million for each of his first two years on the job.

That may seem like a bad deal, but with the $5 million he’s owed from Texas coming in as well Strong would still be making $6 million a year, which would constitute a significant raise.

Hypothetically, USF’s actual payout for the reasons laid out above, could end up being $100-200,000 to offset what Strong would owe the Longhorns. That would make a lot of sense for both parties.

The tricky part is how to pay Strong after the Texas commitment ends. Will USF be able to pay Strong 4-$6 million a year three years from now? Will Strong even be worth that much then? Will he be worth more?

Those are the questions that have to be answered in the short term and they may not be easy ones. No matter how it works out here, it appears someone is going to have to take a big financial leap of faith.

The real priority question, while we wait is: does Strong want the USF head coaching job?

We’ve been told it apparently has been his to take for 24 hours. Stay tuned.

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

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