- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Who says you can't have it all? TWT presents some of the biggest contract buyouts in recent sports memory:

1) Deion Sanders, Washington Redskins cornerback

The cash: A reported $2 million

Services rendered: 16 games; four INTs; one hideous gold-and-burgundy suit.

The deal: Coming off a mediocre season and reluctant to suit up for new coach Marty Schottenheimer, the rapidly-fading Prime Time retired in July. Sanders had already received $5.5 million of his original $8 million bonus and was due to receive the rest this year, but agreed to return $500,000 and take a deferred payment.

Fun fact: Sanders could have kept the entire amount had he been on a major league baseball roster.


2) Jerry Green, Tennessee men's basketball coach

The cash: $1.25 million.

Services rendered: Four NCAA tournament appearances; no Final Fours, innumerable balls rolled out.

The deal: Unable to mold his ultra-talented clubs into legitimate title contenders, Green accepted a buyout following the Volunteers' first-round loss to Charlotte in March.

Fun fact: Green will be paid $200,000 a year through 2006, earning more than Vice President Dick Cheney (annual salary: $181,400).


3) Albert Belle, Baltimore Orioles outfielder

The cash: A staggering $39 million.

Services rendered: Two years; no postseason appearances; Web site investment tips; one poem in the Baltimore Sun.

The deal: A degenerative and arthritic right hip forced the moody, oft-surly slugger to retire during spring training.

Fun fact: By placing Belle on the 60-day DL, the Orioles were able to collect $30 million of insurance toward his remaining salary.


4) Denny Crum, Louisville men's basketball coach

The cash: $7 million.

Services rendered: 30 years; two national titles; 12-19 record in his final year; some really bad crimson shirt-sportcoat combos.

The deal: Feuding with athletic director Tom Jurich and struggling to keep the Cardinals among the nation's elite, Crum stepped down. He will earn $5 million of his buyout over the next 15 years by serving as a "special assistant" to university president John Shumaker.

Fun fact: Louisville would have owed Crum just $2 million had it simply fired him before the end of June.


5) Larry Johnson, New York Knicks forward

The cash: $28.2 million

Services rendered: Phantom four-point play that sent Knicks to 1999 NBA Finals; the double-elbow "LJ" sign; cursing out Bill Walton.

The deal: Grandmama signed a 12-year, $84 million deal after his rookie season in Charlotte; the Knicks were stuck with the remaining three years on the bill when lower back problems forced Johnson to retire in October.

Fun fact: The Knicks applied for a $4.53 million medical exception and were rebuffed by the league office. Go New York go New York go!

6) Ryan Leaf, San Diego Chargers quarterback

The cash: $2.95 million

Services rendered: 4-14 record as starter; 33 INTs; 16 games missed (1999); one egregiously misguided cover of Sports Illustrated.

The deal: Whiny, ill-behaved draft megabust was let go with two years remaining on his contract, costing the Chargers $3.8 million against the salary cap. The club was helped out by a sweetheart stadium agreement with the city that guarantees them 60,000 tickets sold per game and was worth $7.97 million last season.

Fun fact: Leaf later signed with Dallas. How desperate is Jerry Jones?


7) Clem Haskins, Minnesota men's basketball coach

The cash: $1.5 million.

Services rendered: One Final Four; presided over massive academic fraud scandal.

The deal: After an academic scandal broke on the eve of the 1999 NCAA tournament, Haskins was given a lump sum payment to cover the remaining three years on his contract, as well as pension benefits, moving expenses and four season tickets for the three years. Like anyone wants him around.

Fun fact: University lawyers neglected to include a clause in the buyout contract that would have allowed the school to recoup its money if Haskins was later implicated in the scandal. Which he was.


8) Danny Ford, Clemson and Arkansas football coach

The cash: $1 million; $600,000

Services rendered: One national championship, two probations at Clemson; five years, back-to-back 4-7 seasons at Arkansas.

The deal: A rare double-dipper, Ford spun his 1981 title into $1.6 million of lucre after leaving Clemson in 1990 and Arkansas in 1997.

Fun fact: Considered a congressional run in 2000, leaving a South Carolina Republican leader to quip, "If Clemson didn't want him, I don't know why the voters of the 3rd District would.

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