Utah State Head Coach Craig Smith’s Contract Details

As the Mountain West regular season comes to a close tomorrow night, with a few teams still jockeying for position in the conference tournament, I think it’s safe to say that coach Craig Smith has exceeded all expectations.

Utah State Head Coach Craig Smith

The Utah State Aggies ended their season the same way they started it, snatching a tough road victory while scoring 100+ points. The win at Colorado State on Tuesday night guaranteed at least a share of the Mountain West Conference Regular Season Championship. Whether they win it outright will be determined tomorrow night as Nevada hosts San Diego State in each team’s final game of the season. If Nevada wins, they will be co-champions with Utah State, otherwise Utah State is the outright champion.

As I began reflecting on the season, the first thing that came to my mind is that Utah State administration should be planning on giving Coach Smith a raise and contract extension. The man has definitely earned it. The Aggies were picked to finish 9th in the Mountain West and ended up winning the championship posting an impressive 25-6 regular season record. Many believe that Utah State is set to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens next week in the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas. In many people’s opinions (including my own), Coach Smith is the front runner for the Mountain West Coach of the Year award.

So how much is Utah State paying Coach Smith, and what bonuses are included in his contract? I have obtained a copy of the official contract from Utah State University, and here are the details.

Coach Smith signed a 5-year agreement beginning on March 25, 2018 and ending on March 31, 2023 (at the conclusion of the 2022-23 season).

Base Pay (including $100,000 for media appearances per year):

Year 1 – $650,000
Year 2 – $675,000
Year 3 – $700,000
Year 4 – $725,000
Year 5 – $750,000


Team wins the National Championship = $100,000
Team qualifies as a Final Four Participant = $50,000
Team wins the Conference Tournament Championship = $25,000
Team wins the regular season Conference Championship (either outright
Champion or Co-Champion) = $25,000
Team maintains a multi-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) of 952 = $10,000
Team granted an at-large NCAA Tournament Bid = $20,000
Team wins an NCAA Tournament First Four Game = $10,000
Team wins an NCAA Tournament Game (excluding a First Four Game) = $20,000
Note: each win at an NCAA Tournament will qualify Coach for a $20,000
incentive payment.
Team invited to the National Invitation Tournament = $10,000
Tean wins the National Invitation Tournament Championship = $10,000
Team is ranked (Associated Press Poll) at the end of a season in the:
Top 10 = $50,000
Top 20 = $25,000
Top 25 = $10,000
Note: This category of supplemental compensation is mutually exclusive,
meaning that only one amount will be paid if the Team is ranked within the Top 25 (e.g. If the team was ranked as 14, then $25,000 would be awarded; NOT $25,000 for the Top 20 AND $10,000 for the Top 25.
Coach is selected as the “Conference Coach of the Year” by the Conference as voted by the Conference coaches = $10,000
Coach is selected as the national “Coach of the Year” by the Associated Press, the Atlanta Tipoff Club (Naismith College Coach of the Year), or the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) = $25,000
Team wins a rival game against BYU or University of Utah = $5,000

Buyout Clause (in my own words):

If EITHER Party (Utah State or Coach Smith) terminate the agreement for convenience (i.e. USU fires Smith for low performance or Smith leaves for another position elsewhere), the party who terminates the agreement must pay the other party an amount equaling 75% of the pro-rated amount of base pay still remaining on the contract.

So when the contract was initiated that equated to a $2,625,000 buyout. Currently it should be closer to $2,200,000 since most of the first year has been completed and paid. I found this to be an interesting clause as often times there is a set amount for buyout, and the team is required to pay the full amount owed if they fire the coach. I like this arrangement better. It also includes a clause stating that if Coach Smith is fired that he must seek employment elsewhere at fair market rates, and that his payout from USU would be decreased by the amount of his new paycheck.


If this Agreement is terminated for convenience by Coach, then Coach shall not for a period of one (1) year after such termination by Coach recruit any high school athlete previously recruited by USU, unless such athlete had been recruited by any new institution employing Coach prior to the notice of termination by Coach to USU, unless otherwise agreed to by USU.

My Thoughts:

Overall, I think that this contract is very well put together. Much moreso than the Tim Duryea contract (we won’t go there). I like all of the bonuses, and really like the buyout and recruiting clauses. There are more perks included in the full contract, that can be found below.

So, it’s time to get your lawyers and pens ready, John Hartwell. Once the team finishes off the season (hopefully with a bang) it will be time to extend this contract out and give the man a well deserved raise!


Football: The Move to the Mountain West Conference

WAC vs MWCI’ve been meaning to make a blog entry for quite some time now on this subject, and I’m finally getting around to it. I’ve been fascinated that media and fan perceptions of the move to the Mountain West Conference and schedule strength increases from last year to this year appear to be a bit out of touch with reality (in my statistically-based world, anyway).

Much has been made of Utah State entering the Mountain West Conference football conference this coming season. Most media members, fans (including our own), coaches (including our own), and other analysts have said that the move will be a tough one. Utah State will be facing a tougher conference and tougher opponents. How will they fare? Surely they won’t be able to achieve similar successes to what they did in 2012 in the “weak” Western Athletic Conference.

What is this opinion based on? I think it is based merely on image and historical biases. Is it true? That is what this article will focus on.

As a frequent contributor to the USUFans.com message board, I was intrigued this past week in reading a few threads on this very subject. Many fans (including the majority of Aggie fans posting) said repeatedly how this year’s schedule and this year’s conference will be tougher than last year’s. What was this based on? Many posters alleged that it’s incredibly difficult to compare teams that haven’t faced each other in direct competition. This may be true, but there are statistical formulas that do a great job of comparing disparate teams based on a variety of factors, and can predict outcomes with pretty good accuracy. That’s what I’m going to focus on to disprove the notion that the Mountain West Conference will be a huge step up in difficulty. I’ll also disprove the notion that the 2013 schedule will be much more difficult than the 2012 schedule. In fact, it could (and probably should) be argued that the WAC was a stronger conference than the MWC last year, and that the 2012 schedule was a stronger schedule than the 2013 schedule.

Jeff Sagarin is a statistical guru who has a several rating formulas that he uses to rate and rank teams on their relative strength. He uses his formulas to rate teams in NCAA football and basketball as well as a variety of other sports.


So let’s take a look at the notion that the Mountain West Conference will be a step up in competition from what we saw in the WAC. Here are the end of season ratings from 2012 for each conference:

Sagarin Ratings: 2012 WAC vs MWC

So the average Sagarin rank for WAC teams was 96 compared to 109.3 for Mountain West Conference teams. It’s also interesting to note that the top 3 teams in the WAC were rated much higher than the top 3 teams in the MWC when compared side by side. The bottom two WAC teams were rated quite low (lower than any MWC team), but overall the WAC should be considered the stronger conference of the two.

Now, there are many people who prefer to rely on the hats-in-the-mall theory, conference reputation, or the “eye-test” to determine the strength of a team. So let’s look at head to head contests last year between the WAC and MWC.

SJSU @ SDSU – WAC (SDSU was the MWC Co-Champion…and lost at home to the 2nd place WAC team)
TxSt vs Nevada – MWC
TxSt @ UNM – MWC
LaTech vs UNLV – WAC
Idaho vs Wyoming – MWC

WAC wins: 5
MWC wins: 4

Obviously not all WAC teams played all MWC teams, but in the games that were played the WAC won more often than the MWC did last year.

2012 Schedule vs 2013 Schedule

Now let’s take a look at Utah State 2012 Schedule vs our 2013 Schedule. Many have stated that this year’s schedule will be stronger than last year’s. I didn’t buy into that theory and with a little help from Jeff Sagarin was able to back up my initial thoughts.

Sagarin Ratings: 2012 vs 2013 Schedules

The average rank of our 2012 opponents was 99.83. The average rank of our 2013 opponents (at the end of the 2012 season) was 101.17. Does this mean that this year’s schedule will end up weaker than the 2012 schedule? Not necessarily. But based on the information that we have it looks like this year’s schedule will be slightly less difficult (on average) than last year’s schedule. Let’s dig a little deeper.

Body bag games:
Both games played on the road. Wisconsin ended the season ranked 23rd by Sagarin, while USC ended the season ranked 33rd.

In-State Opponents:
Last year we had #26 BYU on the road while this year they are coming to Romney Stadium. Last year’s BYU game was a battle of defenses with BYU pulling out a 3 point victory. Utah State should be favored in this year’s game. Especially at home.

Against Utah, the Aggies won a hard fought battle in overtime by 7 points. This year’s game will open the season in Salt Lake City, and early Vegas lines have Utah as the slight favorite. Using the end of year Sagarin Predictor ratings from 2012 gives Utah State a 9.26 point edge if the game were played on a neutral field. The home field advantage usually accounts for a 3-4 point difference, so based on where each team ended the 2012 season, Utah State should be favored by 5-6 points this year. Why is the Vegas line different? Well, that’s the topic for another post, but basically Vegas tries to set the spread to where they will get 50% of their bettors to bet on each side of the spread. Perception, BCS Bias, coaching changes, player changes, injuries, and probably even the hats-in-the-mall theory all weigh in to where lines are set. I think picking the Aggies to cover is a good bet this year.

As far as FCS foes go, Southern Utah was ranked quite a bit higher last year than Weber State was. Either way, this should be an easy win for Utah State. In short, based on last year’s results, all three games this year should equate to wins for the Aggies.

Conference games:
Last year we faced each of the top WAC teams on the road in #29 San Jose State, #51 LA Tech, and #110 UTSA. This year we face San Jose State on the road again, but have Boise State (41) and Wyoming (121) at home. It’s also interesting to note that outside of Boise State, and SJSU, the next highest MWC team we face was rated #121 in the nation last year. That bodes well for our conference record this year if we can get past the Spartans and Broncos (a big if).

Overall, I think it’s very safe to say that this year’s schedule is easier than last year’s schedule.

What are your thoughts?