Marc Daniels: Norvell's New Deal Is About Money...And Optics

Florida v Florida State

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Mark Cuban was riding a treadmill between games of the 2005 NBA Finals when a member of the media interviewed him. During his workout Cuban was asked about whether he would give then Mavericks' coach Avery Johnson an extension and raise. It was Johnson's first full season as the team's head coach and Cuban answered: "Why would I do that, I didn't hire him to lose."

No team hires a head coach with the expectation of the hire failing but that doesn't stop teams from doing silly things like rewarding coaches

I like Mike Norvell. I liked Mike Norvell when he was at Memphis and saw how good a coach he was with the Tigers. I thought he was a good hire for Florida State and I think he is still a good coach after winning 10 games this past season.

When Norvell was hired in 2020, he inherited a program that was down and faced the huge task of rebuilding the proud FSU program during a COVID season in his first year. He was signed to a six-year contract that was scheduled to pay him $26.5M. At the time, that was considered to be a good deal for Norvell and FSU. Did FSU hire Norvell and pay him that kind of money with the expectation he would win five or six games? Didn't FSU hire Norvell expecting him to win and get the team going so that by year three they might be winning...oh say, ten games?

FSU went 3-6 in 2020, including an embarrassing home loss to Jacksonville State and some, unfairly, wondered if Norvell could survive and get a second season. The 2021 season showed improvement but the Seminoles still finished 5-7. Norvell may have gotten a change at a third season because FSU faced, and still in many ways faces, financial challenges in its athletic department. 

Norvell recruited well and was among the most successful coaches in the transfer portal. His reward was a breakout year in 2022 as Jordan Travis emerged to be one of the better quarterbacks in the country and FSU went on to win 10 games and is projected to be a top-10 team heading into the 2023 season.

FSU rewarded Norvell with an extension that has him under contract through 2029 and will pay him an average of $8.05M. Again, let me say, I like Mike Norvell and if someone offers you a lot of money, you take it. But this is about optics and the business of how schools pay coaches, even after one really good season.

Norvell had three years left on his original deal. Could they have added two years on his current deal and bumped his pay to $6M? Sure. Would have turned that down? Maybe, but why and where is he going? If your answer is "he could bounce to another school" then my answer is....and? And, I don't want Mike Norvell to leave but his extension is about a crazy market and optics.

Since Norvell's arrival in Tallahassee, Billy Napier arrived in Gainesville and got his $7M per year deal and Mario Cristobal landed in Coral Gables with an $8M per year deal. FSU couldn't have their guy making less, could they? Sure they could but it's about optics.

Could FSU have just ripped up Norvell's current deal, bumped his pay and signed him to a new five-year deal that runs through 2027? Of course they could but agents are good at their job and schools are not good at negotiating after a coach has a winning season.

ESPN's Adam Rittenburg had the details on the new deal that pays Norvell $5.35M in 2023, $7.335M in 2024 and up to $8.585M in 2029.His buyout is $6M in 2023 and drops to $4M in 2024. If Norvell is successful in 2023 and 2024, he will never see the current deal reach 2025. He will likely get a new deal.

Contract extensions for coaches who win are done to show their school is paying among the best in the country. It's done for recruiting purposes although that is getting outdated. The thought of being able to tell a recruit the coach will be there for their four to five years is comical in a transfer portal world.

Again, good for Norvell to take advantage of an industry that can't control itself. He was hired to win games and Mike Norvell did his job. As Mark Cuban said, you don't hire coaches to lose. You hire coaches to win...

Final note: Mike Norvell played receiver at Central Arkansas and remains the school's all-time receptions leader.

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