Routinely, agents are fleecing big school athletic directors who, once they have zeroed in on their man, drastically overestimate the chance that he is such a wild success that he would be hired away by one of a few programs, while drastically underestimating the chance that the coach fails and will need to be fired.
In addition to the pressure to get the hire made and being far too overconfident in it, athletic directors often have little incentive to push back on large buyout numbers. Why? A football hire is the most important hire an AD will make. And if it fails, the chance that the AD is himself fired is quite high. At that point, the huge buyout is the problem of the next AD.
Additionally, agents are typically much better at negotiating than athletic directors.
Throw in the money flow that’s seemingly on automatic pilot, and there you go… rubes playing with other people’s money.