Tax filings show Notre Dame has paid ex-football coach Charlie Weis $10.8 million since he was fired in late 2009, with the potential for $8 million more by the end of 2015.
Basketball coaches, by comparison, tend to have much smaller buyouts.
Billy Donovan, coach at Florida, has a $500,000 clause. Kentucky's John Calipari, the sport's highest-paid coach, can leave for $1 million. Between them, they have three NCAA championships.
According to Levinstein, disputes over buyout clauses are rare, in part because particularly large ones may not stand up in court. "The purpose should be to discourage coaches from leaving, not to generate a windfall," he said.
Just four months after signing a contract extension that included a $4-million buyout clause at West Virginia, football coach Rich Rodriguez bolted for Michigan in late 2007.
West Virginia sued for the buyout and later added a breach-of-contract claim because Rodriguez hadn't paid. The sides eventually settled, with Michigan paying the bulk of the buyout and Rodriguez on the hook for $1.5 million. Three seasons later, Michigan fired Rodriguez after the Wolverines were 15-22 under his direction.
Alford went to New Mexico in 2007 and won 75% of his games at the school, although his postseason appearances were disappointing, including an upset loss to Harvard this year. UCLA approached him after bids to lure Virginia Commonwealth Coach Shaka Smart and Butler coach Brad Stevens were unsuccessful. Stevens later left Butler to coach the Boston Celtics.
The contract Alford coached under during the last season called for a $200,000 buyout if he left New Mexico early. But a term sheet he agreed to before the NCAA tournament extended the contract and increased the buyout to $1 million.
After departing for UCLA, Alford sent New Mexico an email indicating he intended to pay $200,000.
Following negotiation, Alford and New Mexico settled on a figure of $625,000. Of that, $325,000 would come from bonuses and incentives that would no longer be given to Alford, with $300,000 coming in a payment from the coach himself.
What Alford will do with the remaining $545,615 left over from his signing bonus is not specified in the UCLA contract.
Times staff writer Mike Hiserman contributed to this report.