Conventional wisdom stated that there was no way the Washington State Cougars could afford to fire basketball coach Ernie Kent. He was owed $4.2 million guaranteed, and the athletic department budget is swimming in red.
Less than 24 hours after WSU was bounced from the Pac-12 tournament in typical unceremonious fashion, athletics director Pat Chun thumbed his nose at conventional wisdom and sent Ernie packing. (To much rejoicing.)
The question a lot of people have is ... how? I have a couple of ideas.
While everyone was focusing on the cost of firing Kent, I think a lot of people weren’t considering seriously enough the cost of not firing him. With attendance dwindling about as low as it can possibly go, revenue has bottomed out. Simply maintaining the status quo meant the school would hemorrhage money on men’s basketball as it continued to throw good money after a bad contract. When it comes to a sunk cost, that’s usually a terrible idea.
So, Chun made the only move that has the potential of turning revenue back in the right direction.
I have no idea who Chun is looking to hire or how much he’s considering paying him, but for the sake of a round number, let’s say he’s looking for a coach in the $1 million range. How many additional tickets/hot dogs/sodas would WSU have to sell in order for the hire to pay for itself? I’m not sure, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s not going to require a bunch of sell outs. Commenter 425CougFan did a little back-of-the-napkin math:
I think there are 18 home games, or something close. $40k in additional revenue at each of them would get us to $720k. If we assume $25 per fan, which is probably conservative if anything, that’s only a 1600 increase in average home attendance. We could probably get $250k in additional donations attributable to the Kent firing fairly easily. These are some pretty conservative assumptions and we know Kent wasn’t going to accomplish it, while his $1.4 million per year was a sunk cost regardless. It also doesn’t account for any other revenues I’m not thinking of, like parking, athletics’ share of concessions, etc., and stuff like that. Hell, this might be profitable.
It’s unlikely that revenue is immediately going to turn around dramatically. But it’s not crazy to believe it could happen over the next few years to the degree that the coach pays for himself. At the very least, you knew it was highly, highly improbable that it would ever turn around under Kent. Even if he made some modest gains in production, that well was completely poisoned. Only a miracle was ever going to get people back on Ernie’s bus, which means this is kind of a unique situation when compared to your run-of-the-mill coach firings.
Always remember: In college athletics, where there is a will, there usually is a way.
After five years of futility, Washington State parting ways with men’s basketball coach Ernie Kent | The Spokesman-Review
Ernie Kent won’t return for a sixth season as Washington State’s men’s basketball coach, The Spokesman-Review learned Thursday through a source.
Kent canned after five season – Cougar Sports Network
PULLMAN – Wednesday night’s historic 33-point loss at the hands of Oregon put Washington State AD Pat Chun in the drivers seat with the announced dismissal of head coach Ernie Kent no more than 24 hours later.
BREAKING: WSU basketball coach Ernie Kent out after 5 years
The move will cost Wazzu $4.2 million, on top of the new coach's salary, with Kent under contract for three more seasons
9 Candidates to Replace Ernie Kent at Washington State - HERO Sports
Ernie Kent Fired: 9 candidates to replace Ernie Kent at Washington State.
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