Gene Sapakoff is the oldest, fastest, hardest-hitting sports journalist in S.C. As columnist at The Post and Courier he covers Clemson, South Carolina and other interesting things. He likes food and has won the prestigious Judson Chapman Award 3 times.

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Clemson coach Dabo Swinney (left) has a $50 million buyout clause in his contract but won't be fired within his current deal. South Carolina is on the hook to pay Will Muschamp (right) a $13.2 million buyout after letting him go with a 2-5 record two weeks ago. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

It isn’t just the winning college football programs making big, positive news this season.

Florida State players are beset with an administration that mishandled Clemson’s COVID-19 protocol and this week are facing a third straight Saturday without a game. But the school donated stadium concession-stand food meant for 3,000 people at the Clemson-FSU game to a Tallahassee shelter.

Winless Vanderbilt gave soccer player Sarah Fuller a chance to make history with a kickoff Saturday during its shutout loss at Missouri.

Almost winless South Carolina can make the best contribution of all: Start college athletics on a more sober financial management path.

Do so by limiting the buyout clause in the contract given Oklahoma assistant coach Shane Beamer or whomever the university hires to run its football program.

Do it for students (and parents) stepping through college debt pluff mud.

The coronavirus cash crunch offers such great timing for a trend reversal.

Most people outside college athletics — and many insiders — can’t imagine why South Carolina agreed to an apparently irresponsible deal in which just-dismissed head coach Will Muschamp gets $13.2 million (plus another $487,000 for his daily salary total from Nov. 16-Dec. 31) to get an early start on Christmas shopping.

Better idea: a standard buyout is the rest of the current-year salary plus the next year.

For Muschamp, that would have been $487,000 for pre-Jan. 1 termination and his $4.8 million salary for 2021.

Sure, he would have had to settle for a smaller yacht.

But the one-year’s pay buyout plan should apply to the next coach, even if South Carolina steers away from Beamer and lands a top-notch prospect such as Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott.

Welcome cynics; please step forward to point out that buyouts are paid by rich boosters.

Assuming, of course, that such donors got rich by making bad buyout decisions and were just delighted to pay the freight for a non-productive coach.

Or …

What could a school do with the difference between a $13.2 million buyout and a $4.8 million buyout?

New buildings?

Save a non-revenue sport on the chopping block?

Lower summer school class prices?

The price of failure

There was nothing surprising, unusual or un-American about Muschamp’s buyout.

That $13.2 million is the going rate, about average for an SEC coach in his fifth season.

Supply and demand.

The price of doing business.

Except that while South Carolina doesn’t have great winning traditions in football or men’s basketball, the university is ideally positioned to lead by example on this issue.

Why schools agree to buyouts: They are afraid the head coach will leave for a better job if he doesn’t get such a contract perk.

Why coaches leave for better jobs: They win enough to create demand.

But South Carolina, in one of the great streaks in college sports history, doesn’t have football or men’s basketball head coaches leave for better jobs.

Not Paul Dietzel or Jim Carlen or Sparky Woods.

Not Brad Scott or Lou Holtz or Steve Spurrier.

And not Frank McGuire, George Felton or Dave Odom.

They get fired.

Or “retire.”

Or eventually resurface at VMI or in a spring football league.

If the next football head coach presides over a garnet and black era so good he leaves South Carolina for more money and a bigger buyout, it’s one of the best problems in Gamecocks history.

And then the athletic director will find out that a major college football job opening is much more attractive when the suitor is coming off winning seasons than losing seasons. 

Dabo: $50 million

Bill Veeck said it best. The late Hall of Fame baseball owner and master promoter — the father of longtime Charleston RiverDogs co-owner Mike Veeck — was asked if he was bothered by rising salaries for star players.

No, Veeck said, the problem was “the high price of mediocrity.”

And still.

Nick Saban’s Alabama buyout is $38.6 million. Nice.

Dabo Swinney’s Clemson buyout is $50 million. A Monday check of real estate listings and grocery prices shows that goes a long way in Pickens County.

But multi-time national championship winners aren’t getting fired within their current deals.

It’s much more problematic for state-funded institutions that Justin Fuente’s Virginia Tech buyout is $12.5 million and that Jeremy Pruitt’s Tennessee buyout is $12.8 million.

It’s not a Southern thing: Greg Schiano’s Rutgers buyout is $24.6 million.

It’s not an East of the Mississippi thing: Karl Dorrell’s Colorado buyout is $15.2 million, and Herm Edwards’ Arizona State buyout is $16,291,667.

They’re begging.

From Blacksburg and Knoxville to New Bruswick.

All the way to Boulder and Tempe.

And back to those who care about students in Columbia.

Please, University of South Carolina, use your strangely perfect clout and take the lead on this.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.