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Sticker Shaka: Costs Mount in UT Basketball Coaching Change

Buyouts for Rick Barnes and Shaka Smart could force the Longhorns to pay $2.5 million.

New UT basketball coach Shaka Smart.

The Texas Longhorns’ hiring of young coaching star Shaka Smart will surely provide a jolt of optimism to the men’s basketball team.

It will also provide a jolt to the program’s expenses. The cost of buying out the team's former coach and hiring a new one could add up to $2.5 million. 

Smart’s contract at his current school, Virginia Commonwealth University, requires the coach to pay $500,000 if he leaves for another team. That kind of buyout is common in college coaching contracts, and it often falls on the coach’s new school to pay the bill.

It’s unclear whether any agreement has been reached between Smart and UT over who would pay this time. As of Friday morning, the school hadn't even confirmed reports that Smart has been hired.  

But no matter who pays, the costs are mounting for the Longhorns’ coaching change. In addition to Smart’s buyout, there’s another provision in his VCU contract that specifically targets the school that hires him away. 

Under that clause, Smart must require as a term of his employment a “two-year, home and home basketball series” between his new school and his old one. The new school, however, has “the right to buy out the two-game series … for the sum of $250,000.”

On top of that, the Longhorns are expected to pay their former coach Rick Barnes a $1.75 million buyout. That payment was agreed to in a contract amendment signed about two months before the start of the most recent season. 

Barnes’ firing was announced on March 29. If he had kept his job until April 1, his buyout would have dropped by $250,000 to $1.5 million.

It’s possible that Texas or Smart could look for a way to avoid paying some of those bills. That kind of maneuvering has happened before. For example, the Longhorns’ rival, Texas A&M, is currently fighting over the buyout of its football team's new defensive coordinator, John Chavis. Chavis' former team, Louisiana State University, claims that he owes $400,000. Chavis denies it, and has sued both his former school and his current team, saying A&M should pay if LSU is determined to be entitled to the money.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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