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Breaking down Craig Smith’s new contract with Utah State men’s basketball

Smith is on his second contract extension since joining the Aggies in 2018-19.

Utah State head coach Craig Smith yells toward the court against Saint Mary's during the second half of a NCAA college basketball game Monday, Nov. 19, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Utah State men’s basketball coach Craig Smith is on his second contract extension with the Aggies in just three years, the most recent of which he confirmed last week during a virtual press conference.

When Smith came in to take over the Aggies, he was coming off a four-year stint at South Dakota. During his time in Logan, Utah State has qualified for two consecutive NCAA Tournaments and sent former guard Sam Merrill to the NBA. And the university rewarded him.

Smith’s latest deal, signed in December, is for six years and $5.025 million, running from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2026, per documents obtained via public records request by The Salt Lake Tribune. His total compensation increases in $25,000 increments each year from $775,000 in the first to $900,000 in the last. Those numbers include money he makes for media appearances.

Smith’s initial contract was for 5 years, $3.5 million. In September 2019, his contract was extended a year and worth $4.65 million. That extension also stipulated that if the Aggies qualify for the NCAA Tournament, Smith gets an extra year added to his deal.

Smith’s newest contract tacks on another two seasons compared to the 2019 extension. Ostensibly, the 2020 extension took what was a five-year deal in 2018 and made it into an eight-year deal.

If Smith stays with the Aggies through the 2025-26 season, he will have made $6.425 million before bonuses, including money he already made in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons.

“Coach Smith understands and excels at all aspects of a successful program from recruiting, to player development, to opponent scouting, to community relations and all points in between,” USU Athletic Director John Hartwell said in a statement. “Under Craig’s leadership, we look forward to continued success in the Mountain West Conference and on a national level.”

The buyout

If Smith and the university want to negotiate a buyout — a common occurrence when another college program poaches a coach under contract — the money paid depends on which party chooses end the contract. If Smith decides to do so, he will owe USU 25% of what’s left on his deal. But if the university terminates the contract, it will have to pay Smith 75% of his remaining salary.

In other words: the earlier Smith leaves, the more money that will be owed by either him or the university.

What’s notable is that the buyout figure has changed as amendments have been added to the contract.

In Smith’s original five-year deal, either Smith or USU would have had to pay 75% of the remaining salary to the other party if they terminated the agreement. But the 2019 amendment to the contract stipulates that Smith would pay 30% of what’s left on his deal to the school in the event he choose to terminate it. However, the number stayed at 75% if the university chose to back out.

Utah State paid South Dakota $206,250 when Smith signed the deal to coach the Aggies in September 2018, per documents obtained by via public records request by The Tribune.

The incentives

Smith has a laundry list of standard perks in his contract, mostly tied to results.

For instance, Smith gets $100,000 if the Aggies win the national championship. If the team gets an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, he gets $20,000. If it wins an NCAA Tournament game that isn’t in the First Four category, he gets $20,000 for each win.

If Smith is named Coach of the Year by the MWC, he earns $10,000. He was given that honor last season.

And, if USU beats the University of Utah or BYU during the season, Smith earns $5,000.

Assistant coach raises

Smith negotiated a larger pool of money for his assistant coaches in his new contract extension. His original deal called the university earmarking $565,000 for assistant coach salaries and an extra $47,083 if the Aggies earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

But with the new deal, those figures increased to $645,000 and $53,570, respectively, starting in the second year of the contract, which is listed running from April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020. So it appears the increases for Smith’s assistant coaches are retroactive to the 2019-20 season, which was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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