Money doesn’t make you smarter.

I like a lot of what Dan Wolken writes, but this piece of his I read yesterday while at the game strikes me as coming off trying too hard to make something out of not much.

Maybe coaching searches just aren’t what they used to be.

In the last 12 months, there have been three mega-openings in college football with another on Saturday when Texas parted ways with Charlie Strong. And here is a snapshot of how those transitions played out:

►Southern California, with all of its cachet and unlimited resources, hired two-time interim Clay Helton with no full-time head coaching experience.

►Georgia fired Mark Richt after 145 wins in 15 seasons and immediately went to alum Kirby Smart without conducting a real coaching search.

►LSU, with two months to get its ducks in a row, settled on interim Ed Orgeron, who was a spectacular failure at Ole Miss less than a decade ago.

►And Texas, which three years ago had its sights set on Nick Saban, is likely to hire a coach in Tom Herman who lost this season to Navy, SMU and Memphis.

It’s apparent now that a market correction has arrived in college football. The explosion in salaries for head coaches and top assistants has had a two-pronged effect on the coaching search industry.

First, whereas it may have cost a school $3 million or $4 million to get rid of its coaching staff five years ago, it’s now often a $10 million-or-more proposition, which is enough to make boosters and administrators balk.

Second, with the gold-plated contracts coaches are now enjoying, it is simply quite difficult for any school to put together a package attractive enough to get an established, successful coach to move. In the last five hiring cycles, only eight Power Five schools have been able to poach from another Power Five program, with the most notable examples being Arkansas’ hire of Bret Bielema from Wisconsin and Nebraska luring Mike Riley from Oregon State.

Okay, he does qualify that with a “maybe” at the beginning, but look at those examples he lists.  The first three are idiosyncratic:  Helton was hired by Pat Haden, whose run of bad choices to succeed Pete Carroll was remarkable; the Smart and Orgeron hires were driven more by booster preferences than dollars (remember that LSU’s first tack was to throw money at Jimbo Fisher in an attempt to lure him back from FSU).

Further, it appears from the general scuttlebutt that Alleva’s search turned to keeping Orgeron after becoming peeved that Tom Herman wanted to play LSU off against Texas.  Similarly, McGarity swung hard for Smart after the latter began a flirtation with South Carolina over its coaching vacancy.  That, too, is more about ego than money.

As far as Herman goes, Texas opened the checkbook much as it did for Charlie Strong, who, it should be noted, is leaving Austin with a whopping buy out.  So there’s still plenty of money out there, at least with college football’s wealthier institutions.

Where I do think Wolken’s on more solid ground is with his last point.  In an era when big school college athletic departments are awash in money, it’s not hard to come up with enormous compensation packages for top coaches.  Urban Meyer and Nick Saban aren’t going to leave for greener pastures because there aren’t greener pastures than the ones they already graze in.

That being said, there aren’t that many Meyers and Sabans out there to chase in the first place.  What’s going to happen isn’t that somebody’s going to offer Nick Saban $10 million a year to leave Tuscaloosa.  Somebody’s going to offer a mid-major hot name like Tom Herman half that to leave Houston and then bump him up if he turns out to be a success so he won’t be poached down the road.  If it doesn’t work out, it’s not like Texas can’t afford the buyout.

Similarly, Kirby Smart in his first year is being paid almost what Mark Richt was making after fifteen years on the job.  There’s plenty of money out there and athletic directors are still dealing with the likes of Jimmy Sexton.  That’s some market correction, if you ask me.


Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

25 responses to “Money doesn’t make you smarter.

  1. DawgPhan

    It does seem like these decision are made more about egos than getting the right guy.

    These ADs can’t stand the thought that they are going to ask someone and get turned down and that gets to the media.

    So they ask the guy that they know wont say no.


  2. Wolken also ignored issues surrounding various programs. Bascially he ignores way too many contributing factors for this to be a compelling argument for any sort of market correction.

    Also, I firmly believe that if The Orgeron doesn’t work out LSU will panic spend 10M (min) on someone. No idea who. but they’ll lock into “we cannot be outbid” mode and just go apeshit. I mean they’re already basically drunk.


  3. Argondawg

    This team has ripped my guts out so many times this year that I don’t have to get my annual colonoscopy. Doc says I am good! Thanks Kirby. So there is that.


  4. What it reveals about the market is that demand is much greater than supply. That’s no formula for driving down costs.

    I do think that Derek Mason is setting a good example in Nashville as is his predecessor at PSU. Chris Peterson at Washington is another. Give a guy some time. You can’t always expect immediate results, but a good ball coach with sufficient time and a focus on the right things: being a physically and mentally tough football team, can get there with time.

    “Old man” football maybe making a comeback.


    • Derek Mason is going to get poached by somebody. A bowl game at Vanderbilt is like a CFP berth almost anywhere else.


      • If you’re impressed with Mason, check out what Willie Taggart’s been doing at USF.


        • DawgPhan

          there are several head coaches in those smaller schools that are doing a lot of great work at places with not a lot of resources.


          • Rocketdawg

            And yet again we hired a career assistant with no HC experience. Gotta love McDumbass and the Buttsmear crowd. #georgiaway


            • daphne95

              Not even bothering with a coaching search is just being so lazy.


              • Tim in Sav

                You guys amaze me……….what was Richt when he was hired at Georgia


                • At least Dooley made an effort to conduct a search before he hired Richt.


                  • That’s right and people were screaming that it was Christmas and we hadn’t hired a coach. Dooley got it right because he knew what he wanted and he gave Mark guidance through his transition. It’s too bad Kirby doesn’t have someone to guide him like Richt did.


                  • AusDawg85

                    Exactly. As I recall Dooley talked extensively to Bobby Bowden who gave a strong recommendation for Richt. Think anybody at BM even thought to ask Nicky any questions?


                  • Otto

                    As posted before, I am of the opinion there was no real search as Richt would not have been fired last year if Smart didn’t look to be headed to a SEC East program. Further this article illustrates the difficulty of getting a coach to leave a P5 program without throwing out Saban level amounts of money and handing over absolute control of the program, which I also believe the alumni understand all of this and communicated their wishes to the AD and President.

                    McG knew the boosters wanted to pull the trigger on the switch from Richt to Smart and they would not fund a coaching move for a new HC that was not to their liking.


                  • Tim in Sav

                    Not really true Senator, Richt actually lobbied for the job thru Bowden


                    • Dooley interviewed several candidates and did a fair amount of background checking on all, including Richt.

                      Don’t forget Adams had his own choice for the job and Dooley had to spend time deciding on Terry Donahue.


  5. W Cobb Dawg

    Well, we need to poach a top OC from somewhere, and scramble the rotten egg we’ve got now.


  6. jt (the other one)

    I honestly think Captain Caveman might be just fine at LSU. I read where he learned a lot at Ole Miss after the fact. He took it on the chin there much because he simply couldn’t make the mental transition from coordinator to HC.


  7. Kirby: I am not impressed & no one else that I talk to Is impressed.


  8. Too many of the ego driven boosters just go nuts and run around like squirrels on speed. Scream ” I want rings just like those Bama guys have”. My ego can not take it. So fire the coach and start all over—–again and again. I WANT RINGS DAMNIT. BUCKHEAD DEMANDS IT.
    As stated above, give a coach a chance. Hell UDub fans were going nuts over Petersen the first year and part of last year.
    Sitcom mentality-can not wait 3 years, want it now.


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