You know things are teetering on catastrophic when the local media begins parsing your contract for buyout language. Such is life for Bret Bielema right now after racking up a 27-29 overall record and a 10-24 record in SEC play midway into his fifth season in Fayetteville — only Vanderbilt has a worse SEC mark since the Razorback coach was hired by the school.

With Arkansas currently sitting at 2-3 overall and 0-2 in SEC play (the fourth time that’s happened in Bielema’s five seasons) with dates at Alabama and home for Auburn upcoming, things aren’t expected to be getting better anytime soon.

Staring down the potential of a 2-5 start to the season, many Razorback fans are eager for a change in Fayetteville. However, if Arkansas were to make a move, the school would be on the hook for several million dollars via buyout. It’s commonly believed that Bielema’s buyout number hovers over $15 million until 2018, but according to a report from Matt Jones and Tom Murphy of WholeHogSports, that number may actually be significantly lower.

Bielema’s actual buyout is determined by a formula included within the language of his original deal, which was made effective Dec. 4, 2012, and signed the next August.

It uses the $15.4 million figure as a numerator and divides that by the total number of months (97) in the full term of his contract. That figure of $158,762.88, called the “monthly value of the total guaranty payment,” would then be multiplied by the remaining number of months on the contract, which runs through Dec. 31, 2020.

Based on that equation, Arkansas would owe Bielema about $5.874 million to terminate his contract after the season concludes Nov. 24, plus a prorated amount for any partial months of employment.

If that information is accurate, it could be devastating news for Bielema, as a $5.8 million pill would be much easier for Arkansas to swallow. That’s assuming Arkansas is eager to make a change at head coach, something AD Jeff Long has not publicly expressed.

The report from WholeHogSports has been discussed by the team over at Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly but it appears they have not been given a clear indication on the figures after speaking to attorneys.

Here is a figure of Bielema’s buyout figures from his contract, the one most that follow the situation are likely familiar with:

And this appears to be the passage the report has discovered that indicates the buyout may be much lower than the chart would indicate.

Regardless of where the true number lies in Bielema’s contract, this talk can go away in a hurry if the Razorbacks turn things around and start winning on the field. That may seem like an unlikely proposition given the first five games of the season, but it may be Bielema’s only chance at returning in 2018 at this point.