A "highly-unusual" clause in Missouri State University head men's basketball coach Paul Lusk's contract was amended the day after MSU's recent blowout loss to Illinois State.
The removal of the clause, first reported on 417-Sports.com, makes it easier to part ways with Lusk at the end of the season if the Bears were to advance to the NCAA tournament.
The clause had given Lusk the option to reset his contract if his team advanced to the NCAA tournament. Now, even if the Bears win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament this season, Lusk will not have the option to extend his contract through the 2022-23 season.
The amendment to the contract also means the cost to buy out Lusk's contract after the 2017-18 season will remain $371,453. Without the change, MSU might have had to pay more than $1.8 million.
The change in the contract, inked Jan. 31 by Lusk and MSU President Clif Smart, does not affect the length of Lusk's contract, which runs through the 2018-19 season.
The News-Leader reached out to Smart who redirected a reporter to Athletic Director Kyle Moats.
Moats, in a phone interview with the News-Leader, said the university had negotiated with Lusk for a couple of weeks before the removal of the clause.
He said Lusk agreed to make the change "for the betterment of the program" and he appreciated his cooperation in doing so.
The amendment came a day after MSU's 16-point loss to Illinois State and nine days after a whole-body cryotherapy session that led to two players suffering possible season-ending injuries. The loss was the fourth of a five-game losing streak. Moats said the timing is a coincidence.
Moats declined to get into the specifics of the negotiations.
Moats said there's "absolutely" a chance Lusk could return for another season as the Bears head coach.
"He has a year left on his contract," Moats said.
It's unclear if the contract change indicates any loss of confidence in Lusk.
"We still believe, I know Paul and the kids still believe we can win the conference tournament and we have a chance to make the NCAAs," Moats said. "That has not changed, that will not change and that still and always has been our goal and it's Paul's goal. I hope that's what fans want us to do."
When asked if Lusk was on the hot seat, Moats declined to use that terminology. When asked if Lusk is coaching for his job, Moats said he believes every coach is coaching for their job at all times.
Martin Goldberg, an attorney in Milwaukee who has been involved in negotiating contracts and has represented coaches for more than 20 years, told the News-Leader in 2017 that the clause was "unusual, at best."
“This type of activity (reaching the NCAA Tournament) usually earns bonuses,” Greenberg said. “It does not earn a rollover on the contract. This rolls over that contract for five years, regardless of where you are on the contract.
“I guess you can put this as a highly unusual clause, and having reviewed probably 90 percent of the contracts in college athletics that involve coaches, I have never seen this before.”
Moats has said the university put the clause in the contract as a creative way for the school to retain its successful coaches.
Missouri State currently sits in a three-way tie for sixth place in the MVC after being picked as the favorites to win the conference before the season.
In his seventh season as the Missouri State head coach, Lusk has a 104-116 record. He has never finished with a winning record in the MVC.
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