The Good, and Bad of Contract Extensions

There are good contract extensions and bad ones in college athletics.
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In the world of big-time college athletics, it's easy to see when a coach has been successful and when one has not achieved the expected level at a particular institution. Simultaneously, there are worthy decisions made to extend some coaching contracts while at the same time, bad deals are done with others. 

Giving a contract extension to Nick Saban for his Alabama track record is a good deal for that university. Likewise, Ed Orgeron getting an extension after his 2019 season would look to be a good deal for the Tigers. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, examples of harmful extensions might be found within the state of Tennessee, where both schools who call the Southeastern Conference home have recently handed out extensions to coaches who are in tenuous positions at the moment.  

Let's start in Nashville, where in February 2019, Vanderbilt handed head coach Derek Mason. It was the second such extension for Mason after he received an additional three-year extension in 2017.    

Since the first extension, Mason has posted a 9-19 overall record, including an 0-3 mark so far in 2020.   

On the other side of the state, Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt received a two-year extension in September, just before their first game. Pruitt's Volunteer squad was riding a six-game win streak entering the season. 

Tennessee would extend that streak to eight games after season-opening wins over South Carolina and Missouri that earned the Vols a spot in the AP top-25 rankings. 

However, since that time, Pruitt's squad has lost three consecutive games, including back-to-back blowout losses to Kentucky and Alabama at home. 

Fans in Nashville have long since grown tired of the losing and Mason the coach. On Saturday, Knoxville fans joined them in the dissatisfied ranks after losing to Alabama for the 14th consecutive season.   

For Mason, the remainder of his seasons' schedule gives little reason for optimism that he can turn things around this year. It could become the first time in school history that the Commodores failed to win a single game. Of course, Mason and his troops were denied an almost certain win when their originally scheduled season-opener against Mercer was scratched because of COVID and the SEC's move to the conference -only schedule. Still, the Commodores and their fans are looking a historically ugly season right in the face. 

Pruitt still has the potential to turn things around in the win column and win back some of the fickle fanbase. After witnessing the fallout of Saturday's loss to The Crimson Tide in person, there is little doubt that some Vol fans will be more than willing to forgive and forget the losses should their team put together another win streak, even if that streak doesn't include a win over anyone of consequence.  

It's easy to understand why athletic directors rush to extend coaches after their programs begin to show successes on the field. They fear losing that coach to another program that might decide to change at the top of their team. However, these two programs and their records' current state should be used as a cautionary tale for themselves and others in the future. 

Granted, fan reaction shouldn't be a significant factor in such decisions because they are often the first to turn on a coach when a team hits a tough stretch. However, when the fanbase begins eroding, it could be a long road to find their return. That's the situation in Nashville while we are only starting to see discontent in Knoxville. 

The remainder of 2020 will show a lot about the actual situation in both cities, and right now, the preview isn't looking favorable.