LINCOLN, Neb. — If you’re a Nebraska football fan who wants to see coach Mike Riley fired, know this:
It won’t be cheap.
After Nebraska fired athletic director Shawn Eichorst on Thursday, speculation quickly moved to what the decision could mean for Riley and his staff. University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor Ronnie Green and president of the University of Nebraska system Hank Bounds told the media that their decision to fire Eichorst has nothing to do with Riley.
But if the new athletic director wants to recommend someone else? Green and Bounds would listen.
“We have to approve those hires as well, but we certainly expect them to make those choices and bring forward good recommendations,” Green said Thursday.
Let’s walk down that hypothetical path for just a moment. If the new athletic director — who could be named within a matter of days — recommended firing Riley and Green and Bounds subsequently approved, what would it mean for Nebraska financially?
For starters, the university buyout for former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is on the books through February 2019. He currently receives $128,009 per month, which was dropped from $150,000 per month after he was hired at Youngstown State. Nebraska pays the difference between what Pelini made at Nebraska and his $213,894 annual salary with the Penguins.
If Riley were to be fired? Nebraska would owe him $170,000 per month through the end of his contract, assuming he does not obtain employment elsewhere. With his contract recently extended through Feb. 28, 2021, Riley would now be owed nearly $7 million, according to Hero Sports.
So let’s do the math. If Riley were to be retained through the end of the season but fired at the end of November, Nebraska would be looking at paying out two separate buyouts for 14 months. That would equal $4,172,126.
And on top of that, you’d still have Riley’s buyout running for another two years, which could be another $4.8 million if he didn’t land another job.
If you’re Nebraska’s new athletic director, these are the costs you have to weigh before even making recommendations. On top of a hefty salary, would a new coach be worth nearly $300,000 extra per month for two years? Essentially, the university would be paying three head coaches at the same time.
That’s quite literally the million-dollar question. And it’s not an easy one to answer.