Clemson athletics gambles, wins on insuring bonuses

Clemson athletics gambles, wins on insuring bonuses


Clemson athletics gambles, wins on insuring bonuses


When he got the $1.3 million dollar check from Risk Point Consulting, Graham Neff really could not believe what he was seeing.

“It was crazy,” Clemson’s Deputy Director for Athletics said.

It wasn’t crazy that the Atlanta based insurance broker cut Clemson a check, but it was how they personalized it that caught Neff off guard. The check was hand written, which is not common anymore in the business world, especially a check for $1.3 million.

But Clemson, especially Neff, loved the personal touch Risk Point gave with the hand-written check. What it did even more than help with its coaches’ bonuses, it solidified the athletic department made the right decision with its $272,500 investment last summer to protect itself.

“It was the craziest thing,” Neff said. “I got it and I went and got Eric (George) and Dan (Radakovich) and said ‘Here it is boys!’ That decision we made in the summer, prior to the season, saved us a million bucks.”

The $1.3 million paid off well considering Clemson’s coaches and staff bonuses increased by $1.15 million from 2015 to 2016, which was due largely to the outcome of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

Clemson had a net savings of $1.05 million.

Clemson came close to pulling the trigger on an insurance policy prior to the 2015 season, but they were a little hesitant and decided at the last minute not to do it. Last year, they ended up paying $2.26 million in coaches’ bonuses. It was something the athletic department learned from.

“You pay $250,000, and like that, if NC State makes that kick, you are out that money, so it is a risk,” Neff said. “It is just like any insurance, it is just big dollars so it is just high risk, high reward.

“We are going to kick it around this year. Just because we saved a million doesn’t mean we are going to do it each and every year, but we are going to look at it. We will look at it in the spring and summer. That is the time you do it. Honestly, it is not unlike Vegas. These insurance companies, they are playing the odds. They knew last year we were preseason No. 1 or 2 so our rate for which they offered to insure was really expensive.”

Clemson gambled a won last year, if you will. If the athletic department had not invested in the $272, 500 it would have paid out $3.4 million as opposed to the net $2.3 million it is reporting. Despite winning the national championship Clemson paid its football coaches a net of about 106,000 more in bonuses than it did the year when it was the runner-up and that was even with Dabo Swinney’s new incentive based contract.

“That decision that we made in the summer prior to the season saved us a million bucks,” Neff said.

This year, Swinney will net $6,147,700, which includes bonuses of $1.75 million for winning the national championship and academic progress. Because his current contract was approved mid-year last April, Swinney was prorated to make $4.4 million without the bonuses.

Neff confirmed they have already spoken with Risk Point Consulting this month and recorded some quotes about possibly insuring themselves for the 2017 football season.

“Instead of paying the same exact thing, maybe we will be paying like $175,000,” Neff said. “We don’t know. It could be $275,000. That is where they play Vegas. This year, maybe it makes sense to do it at $150,000. I don’t know. We don’t have to insure a national championship, we can insure an ACC Championship … Is that something that we think, based on the expectations of the team and what our (bonus) exposure is, does that make some sense?

“Maybe at South Carolina, they will insure a bowl game. When I was at Middle Tennessee we looked at insuring winning the Conference USA Championship. Our bonus exposure was $200,000 maybe, and maybe it would have cost us $50,000 to insure it so it is a really interesting industry. It is kind of out there and not everyone looks at it, but we certainly did.”

Neff said Swinney and his coaches were aware of the fact Clemson was looking into the insurance bonus and he said it helped Clemson in their contract negotiations.

“There is some good strategy with it,” Neff said. “We are not going to use it every year, but we will look at it each and every year, and maybe we don’t do it this year because the rates don’t make sense or whatever.”


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