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Justin Wilcox 5-year, $9.58 million contract explained: Bonuses, Cal assistant pool boost

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So many incentives.

Cal Football

We’ve already broken down some of the main details for the new contract of California Golden Bears head coach Justin Wilcox. Wilcox is set to make $9.58 million over five seasons, for a total of around $1.9 million a year.

Today we dig a little deeper into the full context of the deal.

California Golden Blogs obtained the full PDF of Wilcox’s contract (click here to view and/or download it). Let’s break down the full contract in terms of incentives laden in for overall accomplishment.

  • Wilcox’s base salary stands at $250,000, similar to what Sonny Dykes received at the start of his Cal contract. You’d imagine with a solid performance, Wilcox will see a bump in a later contract extension.
  • Wilcox’s guaranteed talent fee starts off at $1.25 million, gradually elevating to $2.5 million by the end of his contract. Wilcox's talent fee escalates to $1.4 million in his third year, then $1.895 in year four, and $2,538,500 in the final season of his contract. Wilcox is still the lowest paid coach in the Pac-12 by these metrics, although he will be the only coach in the Pac-12 this season with no prior head coaching experience.
  • Wilcox has a hiring bonus of $100,000, as well as a retention bonus of $500,000 if he stays head coach through the 2021 season.

Immediate performance rewarded

Cal made sure that Wilcox would be rewarded more strongly with a solid early performance. Win bonuses are much higher in years one and two, deescalation in years three through five.

  • Win 6 regular-season games: $100,000 in years 1-2, $25,000 in years 3-5.
  • Win 7 regular-season games: $250,000 in years 1-2, $125,000 in years 3-5.
  • Win 8 regular-season games: $325,000 in years 1-2, $200,000 in years 3-5.
  • Win 9 regular-season games: $400,000 in years 1-2, $275,000 in years 3-5.
  • Win 10 regular-season games: $475,000 in years 1-2, $350,000 in years 3-5.
  • Win 11 regular-season games: $550,000 in years 1-2, $425,000 in years 3-5.
  • Win 12 regular-season games: $625,000 in years 1-2, $500,000 in years 3-5.

This does make a decent amount of sense for Wilcox. If he excels early, he’d be in contention for Pac-12 coach of the year. If he excels later, that would be the expectation from a program in the midst of a rebuild.

There are similar deescalation bonuses for bowl eligibility.

  • Participates in Top-2 Pac-12 Contract (non-New Years 6) Bowl Game: $100,000 in years 1-2, $75,000 in years 3-5.
  • Participates in other bowl (with six wins or more): $100,000 in years 1-2, $40,000 in years 3-5.
  • Participates in other bowl (with less than six wins): Up to $100,000 in years 1-2, up to $25,000 in years 3-5.

Outstanding accomplishment bonuses: BEAT STANFORD

Here are the standard bonuses that stay the same throughout the entirety of the contract. As you can see, winning Big Game gets higher billing.

  • Defeat Stanford during regular season: $25,000
  • Beat UCLA, USC or Oregon during the regular season, provided such team has at least 6 regular-season wins: $10,000 per win
  • Participates in Pac-12 Championship game: $50,000
  • Wins the Pac-12 Championship game: $50,000
  • Participates in New Years 6 Bowl Game: $100,000
  • Participates in National Championship Game: $100,000
  • Pac-12 Coach of the Year: $50,000
  • National Coach of the Year: $50,000

It should be mentioned that Wilcox’s is capped at bonuses on a yearly basis around $900,000. However, at that point, if he’s making that many bonuses, you’d have to figure a more lucrative contract extension is on the way.

Assistant coach salaries

Assistant coach salary details are only gradually being released, but one of the most promising notes from this contract is the improvement in the assistant salary pool. A Cal assistant salary pool of around $3.1 million has been set aside, a significant increase from the Dykes era assistant pool.

Academics academics

GPA

Wilcox would earn as much as $60,000 for a year in which Cal had a team GPA at or above 3.00. He would earn $5,000 less for ever 0.05 grade point level lower than 3.00.

  • 3.0 GPA or above: $60,000
  • 2.95 to <3.0 GPA: $55,000
  • 2.9 to <2.95 GPA: $50,000
  • 2.85 to <2.9 GPA: $45,000
  • 2.8 to 2.85 GPA: $40,000
  • etc.

APR

Wilcox also earns the highest applicable bonus for team APR achieved in a calendar year.

  • 1000 APR: $150,000
  • 990 to 999 APR: $125,000
  • 980 to 989 APR: $100,000
  • 970 to 979 APR: $75,000
  • 960 to 969 APR: $50,000

What if it doesn’t work out?

Wilcox’s contract does allow for plenty of flexibility. If Wilcox terminates his contract before the 2018 season (i.e. leaves for another job), he will owe Cal $2,695,500. Between 2018 and 2019, he owes Cal $1 million. If he leaves after the 2019 season, he pays Cal $250,000.

But the buyout almost assures Wilcox will be at Cal at least the next four years, barring disastrous results. Firing Wilcox at any point during his contract would force Cal to pay Wilcox 100% of salary owed for the remainder of his term. Given the escalation of the talent fee, terminating Wilcox at any point before the first four seasons would force Cal to pay around $5 million in buyout fees on this contract.

If Wilcox was fired and did find another job during that offset period, the University's pay is mitigated. Ryan Gorcey explains:

If Wilcox's hypothetical new employer pays him $1 million in contract years 2-5, for instance, and the University's "Reasonable Comp Target" (based on market rate for a coach of his experience and status) is $1.25 million, Cal would pay Wilcox $250,000.

Conclusions

This is a pretty good deal for Wilcox. Even though he won’t be making a ton of money to start, he’s pretty much ensured himself solid job security for the entirety of his contract and has tons of ways to add extra salary through the tons of academic and athletic bonuses provided in the contract. And achieving enough of those bonuses should put Wilcox in a good place to potentially garner a very favorable extension.

Athletic director Michael Williams made a bet that Wilcox would be the right guy to power the football program out of its current malaise. Wilcox’s early performance could end up dictating how long Williams will be able to stick around, particularly given the presence of new leadership in the chancellor’s office.