Even the richest sports league in the world can't meet its pension obligations.
NFL owners in March voted to allow teams to opt out of the league-run pension plan for coaches and other non-playing employees. Already nine of the NFL's 32 clubs have opted out of the program including the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers and three more teams are considering following suit, said Larry Keenan, executive director of the NFL Coaches Association.
The move has angered coaches, and led to worries some NFL coaches and employees might leave the league. Last month, two veteran Indianapolis Colts coaches, offensive coordinator Tom Moore and offensive line coach Howard Mudd, retired because of the pension changes, Mr. Keenan said. At this time, we're still monitoring the issue on a team-by-team basis and staying in constant communication with the coaches, he said in an e-mail.
Jeff Pash, NFL executive vice president and general counsel, told reporters at the league's spring meeting last month that the reason for the change is entirely related to the drop in the stock market over the past 18 months that left many clubs' pension plans quite underfunded, according to a transcript of the press conference.
Teams that opted out are now free to structure their retirement plans as they see fit, and could presumably cut costs by adopting a plan with a cheaper benefit formula. Some, of course, may ditch traditional defined benefit plans altogether.
As NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters at the same meeting, These kinds of programs that the coaches and other front-office executives have had, where it's a defined benefit, don't exist in any industries anymore. Yours truly doesn't have it. Jeff Nash