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January 24, 2013

Aaron Brenner commentary: Confusion over contracts puzzling as Bisaccia questions linger

AUBURN, Ala. — It was a nice line anyway, when Gus Malzahn told the Auburn family his coaching staff had converged with “one heartbeat and one vision.”

It’d be even nicer if it were completely true. Although it’s not necessarily Malzahn’s fault one coach isn’t all in.

Don’t blame Rich Bisaccia for flirting with the Dallas Cowboys, after reports surfaced late Wednesday night from two reputable news organizations Bisaccia was being heavily courted to prolong his 11-year streak of coaching special teams in the NFL.

Bisaccia surely worked his butt off for all 20 days he spent in noiseless harmony with his co-workers. But hey, a better offer comes along, you’re a fool not to at least consider it.

And when there’s no strings attached? Even easier to find an exit plan.

It’s common practice for NCAA Division I universities to go about their hirings of coaches, both head and assistant, and let them get right to work without the formality of actually signing a contract. (Malzahn’s letter of agreement, signed Dec. 4, stipulated he and Auburn had until Jan. 15 to finalize a complete contract.)

Whether Bisaccia ever signed a contract might not be relevant. Nowhere in previous years’ Auburn position coach contracts are stipulations listed in the event the coach takes a job elsewhere and fails to fulfill the life of his contract.

An Auburn associate athletic director who commonly handles these contracts agreed Thursday the language isn’t spelled out contractually, though lawyers may contend there are loopholes behind the scenes.

At any rate, when the big boss admits he doesn’t know the status of his most important employees, shouldn’t that raise eyebrows?

News of Bisaccia’s potential three-weeks-and-out broke right around tipoff of Auburn’s basketball game against Vanderbilt in Nashville. At halftime, reporters from the Opelika-Auburn News and Montgomery Advertiser approached athletic director Jay Jacobs — the man who’s paid to address and sign off on these LOAs and contracts.

Two questions were asked, and that’s all that was necessary based on the response.

“Jay, do you know anything about one of your assistant football coaches taking another job?”


“Jay, do you know if Bisaccia has signed a contract, which would at least make the Cowboys jump through some hoops?”


Oh. OK then.

There are different schools of thought here. I happen to be the professor of How The Heck Does Your Athletic Director Not Know This Stuff? 101. Even a ‘no comment’ would’ve beaten pleading ignorance.

ESPNDallas.com and the Dallas Morning News are not hack shops, people. Nobody said for sure Bisaccia was gone, but it’s clear there’s been some contact. A day later, no announcement has been made, which leaves no clear indication of where Bisaccia stands.

Repeated inquiries to see the salaries for each of Malzahn’s nine assistants have been denied, with Auburn merely promising all contracts will be released together.

One coach, Charlie Harbison, was hired nearly seven weeks ago, and his salary figure STILL has not been disclosed. We just might be seeing the collateral damage when you put off minor details like, oh, I don’t know, signing a contract.

Can’t use the excuse they’re too busy on the recruiting trail. It’s absolutely worth mentioning that Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas have released the financial terms of their coaching staffs.

Look into this what you will. But it’s all about perception.

Aaron Brenner, abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com


  1. It is unreeasonable to expect Jacobs to know that Dallas was pursuing Basscia. I give him a pass on that one. But not knowing if he’d signed a contract or letter of agreement is another thing.

    Comment by TigerEyez13 — January 25, 2013 @ 6:15 am

  2. This is a common problem with Jacobs and the Athletic Department. It took Barbee how long to finalize his contract? Well into his second year, I believe. When you look at the overall state of Auburn Athletics I see this: We have some of the finest facilities in the nation and I give Jacobs a lot of the credit for this. He is very good at fund raising and providing support to the coaches. But the overall performance of the 3 major sports is sub par. Baseball and Basketball are consistently in the bottom half of the league and have rarely sniffed even the remotest chance at their respective national tournaments. Aside from 2010, the football program has been at best average, and at worst a disaster. Jacobs needs to go.

    Comment by Bob — January 25, 2013 @ 8:59 am

  3. Doesn’t Bisaccia work for Gus? There must be a hundred coaches at AU…if you consider all sports and for all the assistants and such. Guess I’m not surprised that the AD would not have that information right at hand for a “cold question”. Lots of folks are trying to make the case against JJ and I think most of those asking questions like the one you mention, have no clue about the number of coaches in all AU sports or the number of employess in the Athletic Department…..or what JJ’s job is beyond hiring a football HC.

    Comment by Ted — January 25, 2013 @ 11:36 am

  4. Dear Captain Obvious:
    You appear to be the master of the obvious and the poster child for the ill informed.
    Your statement, “Repeated inquiries to see the salaries for each of Malzahn’s nine assistants have been denied, with Auburn merely promising all contracts will be released together” was presented by you to be news worthy and unusual citing other universities who have released salary information.
    To release salary information before a contract is signed is irresponsible and just bad business. There is no obligation to release proposed salaries to anyone let alone a media hack before contracts are signed by both parties. Until contracts are signed, nothing is final and yes, your repeated inquiries will be and should be repeatedly denied.

    Comment by Bullet Bob — January 25, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

  5. This is the norm, not the exception in coaching contracts. some coaches never get around to signing their contracts. regardless, buyouts are typically not included in assistant’s contracts, but are becoming more common.

    Comment by bo jackson — January 25, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

  6. […] Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas have released the financial terms of their coaching staffs.” But Auburn hasn’t. Some coaching $ off the […]

    Pingback by SEC Headlines 1/25/2013 — January 25, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

  7. Aaron,

    What is happening here is, you are actually acting like a real journalist. You asked the obvious questions, got BS answers and reported it. People aren’t used to that these days. They don’t recognize it. Keep up the good work. This isn’t a message board.

    Comment by Bob — January 25, 2013 @ 4:52 pm

  8. I saw blogs with the coaches’ salaries yesterday. Have you not done your full research or were those bogus numbers?

    Comment by Hojo — January 25, 2013 @ 10:51 pm

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