One of the best bits of news for Florida’s powerhouse baseball program this year was its successful retention of coach Kevin O’Sullivan despite significant interest from the Lone Star State, where Texas wanted to make O’Sullivan the successor to the legendary Augie Garrido.
It turns out that O’Sullivan didn’t have to leave the Sunshine State to get a Texas-sized payday.
Reports from D1 Baseball’s Kendall Rogers and The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway revealed on Wednesday that O’Sullivan’s new deal is a massive one, providing him annual compensation of $1.25 million and running through the 2025 season.
Rogers has the important financial details:
The details of O’Sullivan’s contract show a clear, strong commitment from the Gators administration. While O’Sullivan’s overall package is worth that $1.25 million per year, he will receive a base salary of $386,500, along with $340,000 from equipment/apparel contracts, $282,500 in longevity and retention bonuses and $124,000 by way of other bonuses. The Gators skipper also received a $500,000 signing bonus.
Some have asked about the buyout. Should the Gators part ways with O’Sullivan, the university would owe him $500,000 for every year remaining on his contract, while if O’Sullivan leaves Florida, he would owe the school $1 million if he left before July 2017, $750,000 if he left before June 30, 2018 and $500,000 if he left after July 1, 2018.
While it’s unclear if O’Sullivan’s deal is truly the largest by average annual value in college baseball — TCU’s Jim Schlossnagle just received a new deal from TCU that Rogers reports could pay him “upwards (of) $1.4 million per year” — it is quite likely to be the largest by total value in the sport. Nine years of $1.25 million per year would make O’Sullivan’s deal worth $11.25 million in total, just more than the 10-year deal worth over $10 million Dan McDonnell signed with Louisville this offseason.
If Schlossnagle’s contract runs through as many years as O’Sullivan’s or McDonnell’s, it likely outstrips theirs in total value — but TCU, as a private school, can be more coy with contract details, meaning that O’Sullivan and Florida can tout his deal as the richest in college baseball, and his status as the sport’s highest-paid coach, until or unless the Horned Frogs pipe up with facts and figures.
O’Sullivan has arguably earned more than he’s been paid to date, despite not bringing the elusive College World Series title to Gainesville. His Gators have booked passage to Omaha more often than not, going to Nebraska five times in his nine years at the helm; earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament twice; and made the College World Series championship series once.
And for all that, he was paid “just” $665,000 including bonuses in the 2015-16 year, per Brockway. A new deal nearly doubling that figure shows that Florida — in the form of both retiring athletic director Jeremy Foley, who secured O’Sullivan’s retention and likely negotiated his contract, and incoming AD Scott Stricklin, who will obviously be happy to honor it — is committed to compensating O’Sullivan as one of the best coaches in college baseball.
With Stricklin leading Florida’s athletic department and taking charge of the recently announced $100 million facilities plan — which includes massive renovations to spartan McKethan Stadium, ones that Rogers pegs at $25-30 million — it is likely, too, that O’Sullivan’s program will get the non-salary financial support that many Florida fans have clamored for as the Gators have turned into a recruiting juggernaut and colossus on the field.
Stricklin oversaw one of college baseball’s most beloved programs at Mississippi State, and proposed a staggering $40 million rebuild of sprawling, much-loved Dudy Noble Field in 2014, one that should turn the field into a palatial facility.
Florida is unlikely to reinvent The Mac even under Stricklin, thanks to fan and booster support for baseball that has been simply not comparable to Mississippi State’s. Still, that vision for a college baseball team — a program that, even in baseball-mad Starkville, likely does not turn a substantial profit, if it turns one at all — is a sight for sore eyes for those Gators fans who have whined about the lack of shade and modern amenities at McKethan.
And if Stricklin — along with Foley, expected to shift into an emeritus role that will boil down to “elite fundraiser” — can present a comparable one to boosters, and O’Sullivan can make good on his mammoth pact with a College World Series title or two, Florida’s baseball program might have the brightest future of any Gators sport.