Dan Wolken wonders if we’re crossing into new territory with the first $2 million assistant coach.
But with $2 million now becoming the new norm for top assistants, a rubicon has been crossed. When I pulled SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey aside Saturday at media day for the championship game to get his reaction, he largely agreed that it felt like a significant moment in the same way it did when college football had its first $1 million head coach, its first $2 million head coach, its first $5 million coach and so on.
While Sankey professed the expected interest and typical concern for what those escalating salaries mean, he believes the market eventually will reach a limit, which is an odd thing to say considering it has never happened in the history of college sports.
“There is an end,” Sankey said. “There is.”
Eh, I dunno. On one level, this sure seems like something that will shock the conscience for about as long as the first $2 million head coaching salary did. Which is to say, not very. Then again, I have to grudgingly admit there might be something to this line of thought:
At least when you’re paying Nick Saban $11 million or Dabo Swinney $8.5 million or Urban Meyer $6.4 million, schools can tie that cost directly to the image of the university. The numbers may be obscene, but there’s no argument to be made against their value as championship-winning football coaches in all facets of running the school. Alabama is a better university academically because Saban’s championships have helped attract talent in every department from chemistry to social sciences; Clemson’s campus and its student body have been enhanced because people saw Swinney’s product on television and thought that might be cool to be part of.
But when you start defending coordinators making upwards of $2 million a year as an integral tie to higher education or having value to a university that extends beyond the reach of football, you’re just not telling the truth, particularly while players are told that accepting anything beyond the value of their scholarships is anathema to the sacred rules of amateurism.
Maybe the NCAA model always had been indefensible, but it feels like it’s being flaunted in a way that no intelligent person can rationalize any longer, and it’s being done in college football for a group largely composed of wealthy, white men clinging to an ideal the public no longer has a strong belief in.
Of course, in the end, I’m sure the geniuses running college football will have all the answers. Aren’t you?