Following what can only be described as a disastrous 2015-2016 campaign, there has been plenty of consternation with Ernie Kent's job status at Washington State both here and elsewhere (mostly our Facebook comments. Dear God, our Facebook comments). Today, Bill Moos cleared things up for us and um, well ...
Bill Moos said that he will roll over Ernie Kent's contract, meaning Kent is still on a fresh, five-year contract. Has not met w/ Kent yet.— Jacob Thorpe (@JacobThorpeSR) March 15, 2016
On the list of things I saw coming this offseason, this was probably close to "Luke Falk getting a neck tattoo". The rollover contract is a hallmark of Bill Moos at Washington State and it means, as Jacob points out, an additional year gets tacked onto the end of the deal every year, as Moos' discretion, to make it a continuous five-year deal. Good for the coach who gets job security and good for the university if you've found a coach you really, really like. Mike Leach got a well deserved rollover and raise after the best football season at WSU in over a decade.
Ernie Kent's rollover ... decidedly less deserved. Basketball fell off the proverbial table after his first season, finishing 9-22 and 1-17 in conference, somehow managing to beat UCLA in Pullman otherwise they would've been oh-fer in conference.
Well, I still want to fire the guy. Can we?
In layman's terms: no. In more technical terms: definitely no. Kent's contract would make doing that cost prohibitive for not just WSU but almost any school outside of the SEC. The entire contract is 10 pages long (and I've embedded it below if you're interested in reading the whole thing) but the relevant section is 4.4.1:
If Ernie Kent is fired before his contract expires, the university owes him every remaining penny. Every ... single ... one. If you want to can him after the upcoming season, you're looking at a $5.6 million payout over the course of four years. WSU would be paying $1.4 million per year to Ernie Kent to not coach PLUS whatever they'd have to pay a new coach which would, at minimum, be in the neighborhood of $1-1.1 million. Put simply, the school can't afford it, unless the debt service on the CFP and FOB are all of a sudden forgiven and Larry Scott gets his head out of his butt on the Pac-12 Networks and sends those baskets of money I'd always envisioned.
Okay, so then why did Bill Moos roll his contract over? Four years should be enough time to turn things around.
It should! Ken Bone did get a fully guaranteed seven-year deal from Jim Sterk but at a substantially lower rate ($800,000/year) and most of us knew it would probably be a multiple year turn around with the way Tony Bennett had structured his team and practically every scholarship coming off the books at once. Kent is in a similar situation next year with six coming off the books but we probably don't need to wait too long after the 2017-2018 season to see if things have worked out for him.
So why the additional year? I truly don't know unless Bill Moos is seeing something that literally no one else is at this point. But Kent's team isn't very good and, as we pointed out earlier, he's not exactly lighting the recruiting trail ablaze like he said he would.
Cynically, we could say that Moos doesn't really care about the basketball team and is focused solely on football or that he's just trying to take care of his friend. I'm not really sure I buy any of that considering Moos' job is make the athletic department as healthy as possible and doing either of those things is completely counterproductive to that goal.
Great, I'm depressed. So where do we go from here?
Kent's biggest chance to get the ship (I have no idea why nautical analogies are so popular in sports but here we are) righted and headed in the right direction is the next recruiting class. He'll have six seniors on his 2016-2017 squad so those recruiting connections are going to have to pay off soon and in a big way. If that recruiting class doesn't shape up the way he or the fans want, we could be in for a long few years.
I'm really not sure things are going to get decidedly better for Washington State basketball in the near future. A coach who is having a hard time recruiting and, well, coaching, just got extended through 2020-2021. We may have to be fine with the fact that this team isn't going to be good for a long while. Or at least until someone ponies up the dough for a basketball facility.