Last week, Youngstown State football coach Eric Wolford (finally) signed a contract extension that might as well have been titled, “Let’s talk about this later.”
The one-year extension carries him through the 2015 season, not the 2016 season as I originally reported back in March. YSU is saying this was just a “miscommunication,” which could mean I was given the wrong information by a university spokesman, wrote the story based on that information and no one bothered to correct it for five months. It could also mean the extension was originally two years, then shortened to one.
Regardless, after taking five months to finalize a contract that’s 95 percent similar to Wolford’s original deal (except for the length), YSU finally responded to my months-long public records request by emailing the contract 90 minutes before the start of Labor Day weekend.
Like a well-oiled machine, I tell you.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the one-year deal is a bad one. In fact, I think it’s pretty smart for both sides.
Wolford has upped his win total each of his four years — although last year comes with an asterisk, since it included an extra game against an FCS cupcake — but he hasn’t been able to get the Penguins to the postseason.
If YSU struggles this season, the contract contains a manageable buyout for 2015, allowing the university a chance to move on. But if the Penguins make the playoffs — and last weekend’s encouraging performance against Illinois hints that they can — both sides can easily draw up a new deal in the offseason.
The contract also allows Wolford to pursue other (i.e., FBS) jobs after the season, something he did last winter. Wolford would only get penalized for leaving early if he does so during the 2014 season and even then he’d only have to pay the remaining 20 percent of his deal.
Basically, it’s the perfect contract for a couple that isn’t ready to get divorced, but isn’t ready to renew its wedding vows, either.
“We knew we’d get it worked out,” Wolford told me after Tuesday’s practice. “We just had to come to some kind of agreement with both parties. Fortunately, we were able to get that done and put that behind us.
“I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to be here and that’s way I look at it.”
When I asked if he expects to be here for a long time, Wolford said, “Yeah, no question.”
This is just the second time YSU athletic director Ron Strollo has given his football coach a contract extension. The first time came in March of 2006, when Jon Heacock signed an extension through the 2009 season.
At the time, Heacock was 32-24 at YSU and was coming off an 8-3 season that included a share of the Gateway Conference title. The next year, YSU won the league outright and advanced to the national semifinals.
Heacock never duplicated that success, paving the way for Wolford’s arrival.
But you can’t fault that extension, just as you can’t fault this one, especially since the signature at the bottom of Wolford’s extension belongs to a man named James P. Tressel.
So there you go. A one-year extension may look like YSU is just kicking the can down the road, but at the end of the day, it does have one important thing going for it: Jim Tressel signed off on it.