Friday, September 30, 2022

Contract deep dive: Inside the contracts of MSU's four newly hired head coaches

July 7, 2022
Michigan State Athletic Director Allan Haller, courtesy photo from MSU Athletics.
Michigan State Athletic Director Allan Haller, courtesy photo from MSU Athletics. —
Photo by Courtesy of MSU Athletics | The State News

As Michigan State Vice President and Director of Athletics Alan Haller wraps up one year at the helm, there’s been one keyword that can describe his tenure.


Football, in particular, has been a major part of that investment with a new facility breaking ground this summer and a historic contract for its headman Mel Tucker. However, there’s also been another source of huge investment with four new head coaches making their mark at Michigan State in men’s tennis, hockey, softball and volleyball.

While sports outside of football and basketball are often overlooked, there’s been a significant revamp in these four programs to try and jumpstart some success. One place you can see that level of investment is in the coach’s contracts.

Adam Nightingale - Hockey


Nightingale not only has a lucrative new contract but brand new facilities to work with as well.

Nightingale’s predecessor, Danton Cole, had a base salary of $300,000 with a yearly supplemental income of $85,000 making his yearly salary $385,000. Nightingale’s base salary matches Cole’s total income and has a supplemental income of $85,000 getting his yearly salary to $470,000.

Nightingale’s contract is a five-year rolling deal that extends him automatically each year on June 30 unless the University decides to not extend it on or before April 15 each year. Nightingale’s contract outlines the ability to earn bonuses for postseason success and honors for himself or his players, but no exact dollar amount or guidelines are outlined. In addition, this contract allows for $365,000 for five staff members consisting of two assistant coaches, a director of operations, an executive secretary and a sports operations assistant.

For other miscellaneous benefits, Nightingale gets a car to use from the University, four basketball season tickets, four football club seat tickets, four football season tickets in the stands, four club seats for hockey and four season tickets in the stands. Nightingale also can be reimbursed for expenses related to the program up to $4,000. His wife and kids are eligible for course fee courtesy at Michigan State University as well, but it's unclear how much money that would be for his family to go to MSU.

When it comes to Nightingale leaving the program, he would receive a full base salary payment of $385,000 if he was fired without cause. If Nightingale were to take a new job, it would require him to pay back $315,000 if it was before June of 2023. After June 2023, he would pay half of that and only a quarter of that in June of 2024 and after.

This contract is very similar to Cole’s, but Nightingale gets a bit bigger of a payday and salary pool for his staff.

Leah Johnson - Volleyball

Johnson is moving the team to the Breslin Center and looks to get the volleyball program to a new level at MSU. Johnson will be making $335,000 a year on a five-year contract that renews each year like Nightingale’s. These rolling contracts for Johnson and Nightingale are how Tom Izzo and Suzy Merchant’s contracts are structured as well.

Johnson is the only one of the four who has outlined bonuses for accomplishments she achieves while coaching at MSU. Among the more significant ones include $30,000 for a Big Ten regular-season title, $15,000 for a second or third-place finish, $10,000 for fourth through sixth place in the Big Ten, $6,000 for seventh or eighth place in the Big Ten, $6,000 for Big Ten player of the year honors, $10,000 for appearances in the NCAA Tournament, $100,000 for a championship appearance and another $100,000 for a national title.

The contract also allows for $315,000 in staff hirings including two assistant coaches, one director of Volleyball operations and one technical director. In addition, Johnson can hire one graduate assistant and creative brand director whose salaries would not be in that $315,000 pool.

Johnson has similar benefits to Nightingale with access to four tickets each for football, men’s basketball and hockey. In addition to a car and course fee courtesy for her family, Johnson also can receive up to $4,000 annually to pay for joining an athletic, social or country club.

If fired before February 7, 2024, Johnson will be paid out the remainder of her contract. If the firing without cause came after that date, Johnson would receive three times her base salary of $335,000 for a grand total of $1,005,000. If Johnson chooses to quit, she would have to pay a year’s salary if it is before February 7, 2025. After that date, Johnson’s payout is only $50,000.

The set-up for this contract, while not as lucrative as Nightingale’s salary, is actually more beneficial for Johnson should MSU or Johnson decide to split.

Sharonda McDonald-Kelley - Softball

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While McDonald-Kelley does not have a rolling contract, she does have a lengthy five-year contract that pays $175,000 a year with unspecified standard benefits for performance.

McDonald-Kelley also has a six-month probation period where if Michigan State decides to fire McDonald-Kelley they would not have to pay out the separation clause with or without the clause that’s outlined in the contract. Without cause, McDonald-Kelley would be owed three times her base salary if it occurs between December 14, 2022, and June 30, 2023. If the separation occurs after those dates and before June 30, 2024, it is two times her base salary. After June 30, 2024, the school owes McDonald-Kelley the lesser of her base salary or what Kelley would have received for the remainder of her contract. If McDonald-Kelley chose to leave, she would owe a quarter of her base salary.

Harry Jadun - Men’s tennis


Jadun has the shortest contract of the four new coaches at three years and $120,000 a year salary. Jadun in addition is eligible for bonuses for postseason performances, but no criteria are set nor a dollar amount.

If MSU is to terminate without cause during the contract, they will have to pay the lesser of 100% of one year of his base salary or the remaining cost of the contract. Jadun, like McDonald-Kelley,  also has a six-month probation period where he can be fired without cause and Michigan State would not have any financial burden.


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