You mean there’s a plan?

I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m piling on Jerry Hinnen over at The Joe Cribbs Car Wash, because he’s one of my favorite bloggers, but there’s something about this passage that’s been nagging at me since I read it:

Lost amidst the predictable Keanu-style Whoa!’s in response to Auburn paying their new RB coach 400K a year and Tennessee and LSU battling to see who could offer Ed Orgeron the most virgins is that neither Auburn nor Tennessee are paying their new head guys what we might expect to be “market value” for an SEC head coach. Any cries of viva la revolucion are obviously a little bit premature, but Auburn and the Vols’ approach does seem to represent perhaps a new way of financial thinking in the SEC: hire a less splashy but cheaper head coach, then back him with the cash saved on his salary to put together the best staff money and a stable full of pure-bred Arabian racehorses can buy.

My first thought upon reading that was wouldn’t it just have been easier to hire Mike Leach?

I think Jerry’s kidding himself if he thinks there was a coordinated plan in place at those schools to structure staff salaries in the manner he suggests.  To begin with, if either of these new coaches is successful in the short run, what’s the first thing that will happen?  That’s right – the head man gets a fat raise and there go the savings.

But more importantly, if that really were the conscious strategy, I fail to grasp the logic behind it.  Given all the money getting ready to tumble into every SEC program, which these schools are clearly ready to throw at assistants at an unprecedented level, why would an athletic director let a few bucks get in the way of a home run hire for head coach?

Let me illustrate with a hypothetical.  Suppose that through some miracle Bobby Petrino had been able to extricate himself from his contract at Arkansas and presented himself as a candidate for the Auburn job at the eleventh hour.  Does anybody believe that Jay Jacobs would have said something like, “sorry, Bobby, we’ve decided to go in another direction with Gene Chizik so we can throw some money at Trooper Taylor to hire him as an assistant”?  Of course not.  And could you imagine the reaction of the Auburn faithful if word got out that Jacobs did something like that?  Tar and feathers, baby.

On the other hand, spending wads of cash to hire assistants makes perfect sense from the head coach’s standpoint.  It’s the southern-fried football version of George Steinbrenner’s method of running a sports operation.  Relatively speaking, you’ve got more money than you know what to do with.  Unlike George, you can’t spend the moolah on the players, so you spend it on the next closest thing.   Will it work?  I dunno – when’s the last time the Yankees won the World Series?


UPDATE: Tennessee Athletic Director Mike Hamilton puts his math skills on display.  Looks to me like he’s either FOS or engaged in some seriously delusional thinking.

… If Tennessee stays below the $4 million total for the assistants – as Hamilton said it will – then the average salary for the other six Vol assistants will be less than $250,000.   Lane Kiffin has hired four assistants directly from the NFL. He is believed to be considering two other current NFL assistants.

They were prepared to offer Garner approximately $400K a year.  I’m guessing that if the right guy catches their eye, they’re ready to throw that kind of money out there again.  So much for Hamilton’s budget.   Besides, what “current NFL assistant” is going to come to UT for less than $250K a year?  That’s a joke.


UPDATE #2: Jerry’s response is a thing of beauty, which, as we all know, is a joy forever.  Or at least until Auburn or Tennessee has a losing season again.


Filed under Don't Mess With Lane Kiffin, Gene Chizik Is The Chiznit, It's Just Bidness, The Blogosphere

8 responses to “You mean there’s a plan?

  1. kckd

    Both of those guys are way, way overpaid as HC. Just a few years ago their salaries would put them as one of the top five highest paid in the nation. You are exactly right, it’s a stupid article. If either coach wins 10 next year and gets them back to a NYD type bowl they’ll get a huge raise.


  2. dean

    I dunno – when’s the last time the Yankees won the World Series? Y2K!

    Could just be me but the article seems a little tongue-in-cheek.


  3. Rather than the Yankees, what it reminded me of was the situation with the Redskins a few years ago. They had a cap for talent (NFL = salary cap, NCAA = no money, but limit on scholarships), but instead spent exorbitant amounts on the coaching. They brought Joe Gibbs out of retirement, along with many of his old school coaches (like Bugel), and then hired two expensive coordinators, who were both former head coaches (Al Saunders and Greg Williams). But, just like the Yankees, how’d that work out for them?

    It’s part of the escalating “arms race,” when you can’t spend on the on-field talent, you spend everywhere else: stadium, training facilities, coaching staffs. Fortunately, the SEC (and UGA in particular) is flush with money, but at some point it’s gonna cause problems. (Maybe Utah senators will sue because they can’t afford highly paid assistant coaches!)


  4. baltimore dawg

    and what about the costs associated with kicking fulmer and tubbs out the door? that’s on the balance sheet, too.


  5. I’M NEVER SPEAKING TO YOU AGAIN, BLUTARSKY. Not really. You’re right: Leach (or Kelly or Johnson) would have been cheaper, more effective, etc.. And I’m not really sure if Auburn and Tennessee’s HC hires were really so much a “plan” as a fallback “Well, we can’t find anyone who’s really worth the giant bag of money we want to throw at them, so we’ll find whoever has the best blueprint for his staff and throw the bag of money at THEM” stance instead. And you’re certainly right that if the strategy succeeds, it might have the effect of being even MORE expensive when

    Regardless, I think it’s a relatively new thing for top-half SEC programs to pass on making the biggest, most expensive splash possible with the head guy and accept that it might be worth settling for a Kiffin or Chizik if there’s going to be cash left over to make a splash with the assistants. I certainly think, in any case, the current ca$h frenzy for guys like Ed Orgeron is totally unprecedented.


    • I certainly think, in any case, the current ca$h frenzy for guys like Ed Orgeron is totally unprecedented.

      As to that, I’m in total agreement with you. It’s the tip of the iceberg as far as the new TV revenues flowing into the conference go.

      I can’t wait to see what these schools spend if this batch of coaches doesn’t work out.


  6. Harrison

    good counterpoint, but your example with petrino has one flaw. i don’t know many auburn fans who would want petrino as a coach after his involvement in “jetgate.” so it would be tar and feathers either way.


  7. College Football and John Keats? Senator, are you reading my diary?