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Originally published December 2, 2013 at 7:55 PM | Page modified December 2, 2013 at 10:41 PM

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Sarkisian kissing off $1.5 million

Aside from the millions USC likely dangled to lure him back to L.A., Steve Sarkisian’s decision to bolt from the University of Washington won’t come cheaply, either.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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For Steve Sarkisian, breaking up was a multimillion-dollar decision.

Aside from the millions USC likely dangled to lure him back to Los Angeles, Sarkisian’s decision Monday to bolt from the University of Washington won’t come cheaply.

Sarkisian’s contract with the UW states that if he leaves before the end of his third contract year — Jan. 31, 2014 — he or a third party “shall pay the University $1,500,000.”

And, because he’s leaving to coach at “another NCAA institution,” the contract requires Sarkisian to pay up within 30 days.

The UW athletic department issued a statement Monday saying Sarkisian, who USC formally introduced as its head coach, would cease employment immediately.

That means Sarkisian won’t coach the Huskies in their coming bowl game — an absence that also could cost him a $150,000 bonus.

His contract says the UW agreed to pay Sarkisian that incentive “in the event the Team plays in a Non BCS bowl game ...” The deal adds Sarkisian would be paid “one (1) month after the bowl game is played.”

The 8-4 Huskies are projected to draw a bowl bid, but invitations have yet to be extended. Sarkisian’s contract also stipulates the UW isn’t liable for paying Sarkisian any money after he breaks his contract, “except all compensation earned prior to the date of breach.”

UW athletics spokesman Carter Henderson didn’t know if Sarkisian would get the bowl bonus or not.

More penalty money would come to the UW if Sarkisian takes defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi with him, as some reports suggest.

Wilcox, the UW’s highest-paid assistant, earning $800,000 guaranteed this season, would be on the hook for $1 million, according to his contract. That penalty is triggered only if Wilcox leaves early “to take a position at another Pac 12 school, with the exception of Head Coach.”

Meantime, Lupoi would be penalized about $410,000 — about the sum guaranteed to him through February 2015, when his contract expires. His penalty kicks in if he leaves for a non-head coach or defensive coordinator job.

Both assistants also could lose $5,000 apiece “for participation in” a non-BCS bowl game, contracts show.

It’s not uncommon for universities that lure coaches from other schools to pay the breach-of-contract penalties. In 2012, when the UW hired assistant Peter Sirmon from Tennessee, it promised to make a $75,000 payment to Tennessee on Sirmon’s behalf — so long as he fulfills a 2.5-year term at Washington.

Sarkisian’s latest pact with the UW was to run through Jan. 31, 2016, and guaranteed to pay him at least $2.8 million next season.

That reportedly made Sarkisian the Pac 12’s highest-paid active football coach. Only USC’s last coach, Lane Kiffin, earned more than Sarkisian in 2012. When USC fired Kiffin earlier this year, Sarkisian ascended to the top of the pay list, based on figures reported by USA Today this year.

Sarkisian also was the highest paid coach in UW history, most recently earning guaranteed pay about double the $1.4 million received by his predecessor, Tyrone Willingham.

The last time UW split with a head football coach, the school paid contractual penalties of its own. After parting ways early with Willingham in 2008, the school paid him $2.8 million, including a $1 million buyout payment.

Lewis Kamb: lkamb@seattletimes.com or 206-464-2932. Twitter: @lewiskamb



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