Category Archives: College Football

That money ain’t gonna spend itself, boys.

Ah, what to do with the torrent of broadcast money flowing into college football in the age of amateurism?

I think we know the answer to that.

assistants-salaries

The linked article is a hoot… unless you’re a strength coach’s agent, in which case it’s manna from heaven in terms of planting the awareness in the heads of every P5 athletic director in the country that everybody gets to make bank these days.

Iowa’s Chris Doyle is the highest-paid strength coach in the country, with a base annual pay of $625,000. That is the same salary Iowa pays to its offensive and defensive coordinators. Alabama’s Scott Cochran had his base pay bumped from $420,000 in 2015 to $525,000 this fall after a high-profile dalliance with rival Georgia; much a like an assistant coach, Cochran saw his salary rise due to outside interest.

Doyle, Marotti and Cochran each are paid more than 17 public school head coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Five strength coaches — Doyle, Marotti, Cochran, UCLA’s Sal Alosi and South Carolina’s Jeff Dillman — are making at least $400,000 annually. Six — the aforementioned quintet plus Oklahoma State’s Rob Glass — make more than two FBS head coaches: Louisiana Monroe’s Matt Viator and New Mexico State’s Doug Martin.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  It’s America and people should make whatever the market will bear.  But this is a perfect example of the kind of market distortions you get when you combine lots of money, an artificially inexpensive labor base and athletic directors who have to kowtow to what their boosters and coaches think is appropriate.

The fun will come in trying to predict where the next bubble comes.  My money’s on recruiting directors.

By the way, if you really want some indication of how vast the money flow is these days, check out USA Today’s chart on assistant pay and guess where Georgia ranks among all the schools in the country.  Given B-M’s reputation for frugality, combined with the absence of chest-thumping and/or fretting about handing out those kind of bucks — remember the days when Richt had to come out of his own pocket to pay bonuses to his staff? — that’s pretty remarkable stuff.

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“This is an incestuous situation.”

A business management professor at Miami University who because a Florida State fan and then got tired of hearing Texas A&M fans complain about the refs favoring Texas decided to see if systematic evidence of referee bias in college football actually exists.  He claims his studies show that’s the case, but when you break it down, it’s pretty weak beer.

There is a less than insidious explanation: avoiding penalties is a skill. Flagship teams are more likely to have firebreathing truckzillas; Purdue is more likely to have a peasant wielding a pitchfork. In such situations the penalty scales are naturally out of balance; news that Purdue gets 14% fewer “discretionary” calls than OSU fails to move hte needle. That seems about right. This is immediately proposed by the NCAA’s national coordinator for officiating and then largely ignored.

About 3/4ths of the way through the thing we get the big reveal:

While earning his Ph.D. at Texas A&M, he came to sympathize with Aggie fans who believed that all close calls favored the University of Texas. “I reached a breaking point,” Brymer says. Weary of fans whining about refs without empirical evidence, he decided to see if he could find any. “At least I’m bringing myself peace,” he says.

Yes, but think of all the bloggers you’re forcing to write skeptical items in their link roundup pieces.

Guilty!  Although I will acknowledge there’s something to be said for this Caesar’s wife suggestion:

Retired Big Ten ref and current ESPN analyst Bill LeMonnier says it wouldn’t hurt to assign more third-conference officiating crews—a Pac-12 group for Alabama vs. Penn State, for instance—especially in big games. “If that eliminates the perception, it’s worth doing,” LeMonnier says.

Then, again, strip away even the perception of bias and all we’re left to argue about is incompetence.  Where’s the fun in that, I ask you?

As an aside, conspiracy theorists, don’t miss this little sidebar:  “While SEC officials are the least biased in the Power 5, over the years they’ve shown a soft spot for the underdog.”  Get your shit together, Birmingham.

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Today, in just shoot me

Jim Delany, on the role of today’s conference commissioner:

“We’re managing more. It’s more public; it’s more national. There’s more interest in football. The issues were all within our control for a long time. With the advent of more litigation, it narrows the issues that you have direct control over and moves your attention and resources to defending what you think is defensible, and settling what you think you should settle … a series of existential threats you’re thinking about regularly … while you still have to do all the transactions you do day in and day out, whether it’s trading officials or doing television deals. Then it makes you very, very sensitive to the idea that there’s some areas that you still have a lot of control over that you simply need to do better at.”

Fighting lawsuits and negotiating TV deals.  That’s it.

And you wonder why I feel so screwed these days.

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Your weekly non-Dawg game day post, 12/3 edition

Weird mix of conference championship and run of the mill regular season games today.

Temple

#19Navy

12:00 PM

Navy still has something to play for, in terms of significant postseason chances.  The other thing that’s interesting about this game is that it matches on of the hottest defensive teams in the country, Temple, against a Navy squad that’s got the highest scoring average in the country over the last month or so.

#10Oklahoma State

#9Oklahoma

12:30 PM

Will Gundy’s mullet survive?

#1Alabama

#15Florida

4:00 PM

Come for the likely coronation.  Stay for Uncle Verne’s swan song.

#3Clemson

#23Virginia Tech

8:00 PM

Every time I see this game, I can’t help but think of Jim Donnan’s tag — the World’s Smallest Outdoor Cocktail Party.

#6Wisconsin

#7Penn State

8:00 PM

Two teams playing for the conference championship won’t make the college football playoffs.  Meanwhile, one, maybe two teams not playing in the championship game will make the CFP.  Welcome to the Big Ten, 2016.

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If they ever do name a college football commissioner…

… they could do a lot worse than Bill Snyder.

“I can’t tell you I have the answers. We all have opinions but it’s my feeling that we have exploited college football, college athletics in general. We speak all the time about the welfare of the student-athlete and indeed that has not evolved as the most important thing. It’s been strictly about winning and dollars, maybe dollars first and winning second, or vice versa. I think we’ve sold out to the dollars and cents and we sold out to TV. You think about games being played for money – that’s the intent of it. You play for money so we’re playing games on – you pick the night of the week. I think there’s one or two nights we don’t have college football. When you think about a team traveling halfway across the country and playing on Thursday night, you miss Wednesday classes and you miss Thursday classes and it’s a night game so you’re going to miss all or a vast majority of Friday classes. We don’t think anything about that because it brings in bucks. We spend millions and millions and millions of dollars on so many things. We all have nice facilities and we’re all grateful for the people that invest the money to do that but to me it kind of sends a little different message that says the dollars and cents are more important than anything else … more important than the value system that you try to impart on the young people in your program.

“I understand the exposure element of it. I love our fans and I imagine all coaches feel the same way, and that’s what they want to see and that’s what they are invested in. I identify with my age being 100 years old that you used to play 1:10 games on Saturday afternoon and all the fans went to their favorite college game. I’m not saying it has to be that way or should be that way, but you see how it’s evolved away from that to create greater exposure through television. The resources out of television are so phenomenal. As coaches, and I can’t speak for others, I make far more than I’m worth, I can assure you of that ($3.05 million this season). It’s ballooned and now they’re talking about somewhere near $10 million contracts. Where does it stop?

“We talk about education – you got me started on this – you talk about the welfare of the student-athlete and trying to get the best possible education we can and when all that kind of money is involved you look at the faculty members who are the ones that impart the education to these young people and they get a distaste in their mouth because they are grossly underpaid. They are in closets for offices and they see all the grandeur the college athletics and football programs have and, justifiably so, they have an ill feeling about college athletics. Sometimes that can impact their feelings toward young student-athletes.”

That is what you call speaking truth to power.  Not that anyone in power is listening…

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“There are too many people counting on us.”

Admittedly, my first response to Jon Solomon’s article about Charlie Strong’s firing and its effect on black coaches was a bit knee jerk, but he makes a solid point when he writes,

Advocates who are pushing for minorities to get more interviews for head-coaching jobs are closely watching what happens next with Strong.

They remember Will Muschamp at Florida Gators , Charlie Weis at Notre Dame and Ron Zook at Florida. They all failed miserably at one high-profile job only to get another head-coaching position fairly quickly (at South Carolina Gamecocks , Kansas and Illinois Fighting Illini , respectively). There’s also Ed Orgeron, who similarly failed miserably as a first-time head coach at Ole Miss Rebels and — after a decade as an assistant and interim coach — worked his way back to one of the most prestigious jobs in the country at LSU. They’re all white. (Willingham got another job after Notre Dame and went 11-37 at Washington Huskies in four years.)

What jobs open up this offseason and where Strong wants to coach will be factors determining whether he’s a head coach in 2017. Another factor: Presidents and athletic directors considering Strong had a 23-3 record in his final two years at Louisville Cardinals after cleaning up problems he inherited.

“The question isn’t about him falling [at Texas], it’s will he get an opportunity somewhere else?” said Ohio State Buckeyes athletic director Gene Smith…

Indeed.

I’ve said for years, it’s not that athletic directors are racists — athletics aren’t a place you can succeed with that kind of attitude — as much as they’re lazy and more than willing to tap into the familiar as a way of avoiding being accused of taking unnecessary risks.  I may not be as sure as I could be about Strong’s head coaching ability, as others are.  He did very well at Louisville, but the best that can be said about his Texas stint was that he and the school were a bad match.  Even with that, I’m certainly sure he’s no worse a gamble than Boom, Weis or the Zooker were on their second shots.

By the way, and on an entirely different note, this passage ought to be interesting to GTP’s self-appointed expert on HR and hiring:

Universities are bound by federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to not discriminate when hiring. However, athletic departments often find a way around having a diversified pool, unlike other job openings at universities, Norvell said.

“ADs call the HR department when they have a hot candidate and they ask for a waiver,” Norvell said. “What the waiver does is get them around Title VII because they can qualify it as an emergency hire and then they don’t need a diversified pool…”

Must have seemed like an emergency after Jimmy Sexton opened the lines of communication with South Carolina, I suppose.

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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.

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