CLEMSON - When a select group of college programs feel it's time for a change of leadership, their bank accounts and booster clubs can pay their way to a new direction.
What if the Tigers endured a startling slide from their string of 10- and 11-win football seasons to the depths of a land without bowls?
It could happen. Ask Miami's Larry Coker in 2006, Auburn's Gene Chizik in 2012 or Texas' Mack Brown last year.
After signing an extension keeping him with the Tigers through 2012, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is owed the entirety of his eight-year, $27.15 million contract in the event he were fired within the next three seasons. After that, the buyout declines steadily, but not drastically.
Asked if Clemson, which had the nation's No. 41 highest-grossing athletic department in 2013 according to USA Today's database, could afford to pay two coaching staffs if there's a call for change, athletic director Dan Radakovich understandably didn't want to ponder such hypotheticals.
But he wasn't concerned with Clemson's bottom line.
"I can't say that I wake up every day worrying about whether we're going to hit payroll," Radakovich told The Post and Courier. "We are in good, solid financial shape."
Clemson's fiscal year concluded last week, and numbers will soon roll in to indicate revenues and expenses gained and lost the past 12 months.
"We'll end this (year) with a slight profit as an athletic program," Radakovich said. "IPTAY (the booster club) will end the year with a healthy amount to add to their reserve; I don't know what the numbers are yet, but they're tracking in a positive direction.
"But that said, we can't be reckless with those dollars because we don't have these large safety nets."
Chizik, for example, was owed a $7.5 million buyout when he was dismissed after a 3-9 debacle in 2012, just two years removed from a national title. But his successor, Gus Malzahn, brought Auburn immediately back to the BCS National Championship, paying dividends despite Auburn's eight-figure financial commitment to two coaching staffs: the past and present ones.
Aside from Swinney, if the entire Clemson staff of nine assistants were terminated after 2014, they'd be owed a collective $7.895 million buyout (minus mitigating paychecks they earn at future employers.) Again, that's before factoring in the new staff's salaries.
Of course, that's on the backburner for one of the country's most consistent programs of the past couple of years. Radakovich, entering his second full academic year at Clemson, has focused his budgetary efforts on the department's facilities.
"We have taken the last few months, or maybe about a year or so, and said, one of the big needs that we have are facilities throughout our athletic program," Radakovich said. "How can we leverage the monies that are available within both the athletic program and IPTAY in order to take advantage of some positive things in the market and build some facilities that are long-needed?
"Look at the football stadium: we're going to redo the suites and create some new suites and club suites on the south end of the stadium. Those are going to create revenue, and those are going to create revenue from people who purchased those areas to help pay for the bonds that not only support that particular area, but the other facilities that we're going to build as well. So we're very lucky to be in a situation with good financial stability."
Head basketball coach Brad Brownell signed his own extension in May, and he'd be owed between $3 and $5 million if fired any time in the next five years. Embattled baseball coach Jack Leggett has two years left on his deal, and his buyout would range from $200,000 to $400,000 if released within the next 12 months.
While the No. 41 money-making ranking via USA Today isn't terribly impressive, and Radakovich doesn't believe Clemson could skyrocket the list in the coming years, he's comfortable with his program's standing.
"One of the great things about those databases is I might count my chickens a little differently than some other folks, and they've done a great job in those databases to move away from that," Radakovich said. "But it's still not 100 percent. If we're 41, and we have the financial situation that we have right now, we're in really good shape."