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College ADs cower in the presence of coaching super-agent Jimmy Sexton | Commentary

Who do you think is the most powerful person in college football?

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey?

Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti?

NCAA President Charlie Baker?

College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock?

Influential ESPN commentator Paul Finebaum?

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.

You’re not even close.

It’s college football coaching super-agent Jimmy Sexton, the man who has literally and legally convinced college athletic directors to sign away mega-millions, if not billions of dollars, in one-sided coaching contracts to his grateful clients over the years.

Jimmy Sexton (Joshua Duplechian/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
Sports agent Jimmy Sexton speaks during the Division I Leadership Council meeting during the annual NCAA Photos via Getty Images Convention held in San Antonio in 2011.  (Getty file)

The retiring Nick Saban may be the most dominant, dynastic figure to ever roam a college football sideline, but Sexton is the most dominant, dynastic figure to ever sit at a college football bargaining table. When he walks through the door, ADs just instinctively curl up in the fetal position and start whimpering, “Please, Mommy, don’t let the mean man in the nice suit take all my money.”

This is not a column of admonishment about Sexton; it’s a column of admiration. We should all be so lucky as to have a representative like Jimmy Sexton protect and enhance our financial success.

“You hear about all of these antitrust lawsuits,” one college administrator said and laughed. “The government should investigate Jimmy Sexton for having an illegal monopoly on the best coaches.”

Sexton doesn’t represent every college football coach, but he represents many of the best ones. He represents three of the four head coaches who were in the college football playoff and 11 of 14 coaches in the SEC last season.

He represents Saban and new Alabama coach Kalen DeBoer. He represents Georgia’s Kirby Smart, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Texas’ Steve Sarkisian, Oklahoma’s Brent Venables, Oregon’s Dan Lanning and Mississippi’s Lane Kiffin. In Florida, he represents three of the state’s Big 4 coaches — FSU’s Mike Norvell, Florida’s Billy Napier and UCF’s Gus Malzahn.

Denver Broncos first-round draft pick Tim Tebow, left, talks on his cell phone while arriving for an after-draft news conference with his agent Jimmy Sexton at the Glen Kernan Golf & Country Club in Jacksonville on April 22, 2010. (Phelan M. Ebenhack, Associated Press)
Denver Broncos first-round draft pick Tim Tebow, left, talks on his cell phone while arriving for an after-draft news conference with his agent Jimmy Sexton at the Glen Kernan Golf & Country Club in Jacksonville in 2010. (AP file)

Sexton isn’t just the master of working the system that has created these obscenely massive contracts for college coaches; he pretty much created the system.

A perfect example came last week when Alabama’s Saban shockingly announced his retirement. The top candidates to replace Saban were Norvell, Lanning, Sarkisian and DeBoer — all Sexton clients.

I’m just guessing, but this is how I imagine Alabama decided upon DeBoer: After Lanning quickly took his name out of consideration, Sexton organizes a Zoom meeting with Norvell, Sarkisian and DeBoer in which the following dialogue takes place:

Sexton to Norvell: “Mike, are you interested in the Alabama job?”

Norvell: “Are you freaking crazy? No way do I want to follow the Sabanator at Alabama, where the only direction you can go is down. Besides, we’ve got it rolling at Florida State right now. I’m happy in Tallahassee.”

Then Sexton goes to Sarkisian and says: “Well, Sark, how about you? Are you interested in the Alabama job?”

Sark: “Hell, no. I was the offensive coordinator at Alabama under Saban so I know how crazy those Bama fans are. They’ll poison your trees if they don’t like you. And we’ve got it rolling at Texas, too. I’m happy in Austin.”

Then Sexton goes to DeBoer and says: “What about you, Kalen, are you interested in the Alabama job?”

DeBoer: “I’m only making $4 million a year at Washington. If you can get me $10 million or $11 million a year at Alabama then I’ll give it a shot. Besides, it was probably a fluke that we made the national championship game this season. I’ll probably never get this chance again. Let’s do it, Jimmy. I’ll take the Alabama job.”

Sexton (rubbing his hands together): “OK, boys, it’s settled. Coach DeBoer gets a big raise for taking the Alabama job and Coach Norvell and Coach Sarkisian will get big raises for NOT taking the Alabama job! How does that sound?”

Norvell, DeBoer and Sarkisian joyfully and in unison break into a rendition of the old Jim Croce song: “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim.”

“You don’t tug on Superman’s cape,You don’t spit into the wind,You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger,And you don’t mess around with Jim!”

Indeed, Sexton got Norvell and Sarkisian big raises for turning down a job that they likely weren’t even interested in to begin with. Norvell, for instance, now has a new 8-year contract at FSU for more than $10 million dollars per season.

Isn’t it ironic that college athletic departments nationwide are shaking down fans and boosters for NIL money to pay players, but at the same time they think nothing of giving a coach a 10-year, $100 million contract?

You see, Sexton has all the leverage because a great coach in college football is so hard to find that ADs will agree to anything in an attempt to hire one or keep one. After Norvell went 13-0 this past season, FSU AD Michael Alford wasn’t willing to risk losing him to Alabama even though Norvell had just signed a new contract before the season that paid him $8 million annually through 2029. Instead, in response to Norvell being contacted by Alabama, FSU quickly extended the contract again and gave Norvell even more money.

What makes this such a bad deal is that the coach gets all the money and the school takes all the risk.  ADs typically give a coach a nearly fully guaranteed contract that they must pay off if the coach is fired, but the coach has a minimal buyout if he wants to accept another job. For instance, if Norvell had accepted the Alabama job last week, he would have owed FSU just $12 million. If FSU wanted to fire him, the Seminoles would owe him nearly $50 million.

Of course, I don’t think FSU is going to fire Norvell anytime soon because he appears to be a really good coach; maybe even a great coach.

But I used to think Jimbo Fisher was a great coach, too, after he won a national championship at Florida State, bolted to Texas A&M and had the Aggies ranked No. 4 in the country at the end of the 2020 season with one of the top recruiting classes in the country.

That’s when then-Texas A&M AD Ross Bjork idiotically gave Fisher a raise to $9 million a year and extended his original 10-year, $75 million contract four more years through the 2031 season. Consequently, after Jimbo was fired in November, the Aggies were forced to pay him $77 million over the next eight years NOT to coach at Texas A&M.

Anybody want to take a guess who Jimbo Fisher’s agent is?

That’s right, it’s Jimmy Sexton.

The most powerful man in college football.

Who else can turn college athletic directors — who are otherwise a collection of exceptionally competent, highly intelligent people — into a bunch of desperate, fiscally reckless squanderers of other people’s money?

You don’t mess around with Jim.

Email me moc.lenitnesodnalro@ihcnaibm ta. Hit me up on X (formerly Twitter) @BianchiWrites and listen to my Open Mike radio show every weekday from 6 to 9:30 a.m. on FM 96.9, AM 740 and 969TheGame.com/listen


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