The 2017 season is barely off the ground and it’s already approaching disaster territory for the Georgia Southern Eagles.
After a substandard showing against the Auburn Tigers and an absolutely-cannot-happen loss to New Hampshire, fans and media pretty much everywhere are calling for head coach Tyson Summers’ job (somewhere in a distant room Nick Saban grumbles about firing talk two weeks into the season: “Why do we even play the games!?”).
There’s a long way to go and a lot of ball to play, but if a firing does happen the decision won’t be easy. Summers is owed a pricey $900,000 if fired this year, almost double his annual salary (NOTE: the final amount could be somewhat lower since it is prorated for partial years).
Not only that, I made an open records request to obtain the contract for new offensive coordinator Bryan Cook, brought on this year to restore the Triple Option and — the powers that be hoped — winning to the program.
According to the contract, Cook brings in a base salary of $245,000 per year, and that salary is guaranteed through February 2019. That means if the entire coaching staff gets the heave the total buyout number comes in even higher.
So far, the GS offense looks even worse than it did last year, scoring a grand total of one touchdown in eight quarters of play. Look to any corner of Georgia Southern Internet, and you’ll see fans ready to sack everyone down to the water boys and kicking tee retrievers to bring a turnaround to the Eagles’ fortunes.
Now, before we run off the rails here, there are a few things I should mention. First off, there really is a lot of football left to play. Need examples? Okay. Just last year, Arkansas State started off 0-4, dropped a home game to Central Arkansas, then ripped off seven wins in the final eight games to take home a Sun Belt title.
How about Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield? He went 4-8 his first season in 2013, then kicked off the next year 1-5, capped off by a home loss to FCS Liberty. That season ended with six straight wins and the Mountaineers haven’t slowed up since.
Do I think that will happen with this coaching staff? No, I don’t. But it could.
Looking a little deeper, should everyone get canned one piece of good news is that any salary Cook earns in his next job will be subtracted from what GS pays him.
Yes, in theory he could cruise the Caribbean for a year and a half, but in my experience the type of person who works his way up to a $245,000 a year job isn’t the type to sit around and take it easy.
There’s also a scenario where a new coach is hired and Cook stays on in some capacity. Lest we forget, Georgia Southern used every trick in its playbook to lure Cook and his triple option pedigree away from Georgia Tech this offseason. The Eagles reportedly tried to hire him last year without success, and his salary is nearly half that of Summers, an incredibly high ratio for any assistant.
The fact his pay is guaranteed for two years also speaks to the leverage Cook had in the negotiations. His contract includes perks like an automobile allowance, $8,000 in moving expenses, compensation bonuses up to a potential $15,000 and a few complimentary tickets to each game for friends and family.
It also stipulates he’d have to pay the school $45,000 should he leave for another job before the guarantee date. Perusing Cook’s contract, SB Nation’s Matt Brown noted it was more interestingly detailed than many of the head coaching ones he’d seen.
Oh yeah, and there’s that lawsuit alleging GS colored outside the lines in dumping previous OCs David Dean and Rance Gillespie, potentially in an effort to free up funds for Cook.
What does it all mean? Nothing yet, but if the Eagles’ season continues along the path we’ve all witnessed in games one and two, finding a new coaching staff for 2018 could be an expensive proposition.