Wednesday, December 21, 2011

College coaching salaries: Who’s getting their money’s worth?

According to the USA Today College football coach salary database, the list of the Top 10 schools for total coaching salaries has a lovely SEC hue to it. The highest paid staff in the nation is Texas, coming in at a hefty $8.8 million for head coach Mack Brown and his merry band of assistants.

But the next three are all SEC schools. Alabama is second in the country at $8.5 million, Auburn is third at about $7.7 million, LSU is fourth at $7.6 million. Florida weighs in at No. 6 with $6.3 million and Arkansas follows at No. 7 at just under $6.0 million.

image For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a total of $70 million, an eye-popping amount of coin for coaches. The money’s well spent when your program is winning, getting butts in seats and putting hardware in the trophy case. Who’s getting their money’s worth? Who’s paying a lot of money for ho-hum results?

At No. 1, Texas’ return on investment over the last two years is disappointing. After getting hammered by Alabama in the BCS Championship Game in Pasadena two January’s ago, Mack Brown & Co. are 5-7 and 7-5. Is this worth $8.8 million?

Ask the question of Auburn at the end of the 2010 season and the answer would be a hearty YES! But asking it now gets a much more muted response, doesn’t it? Two of the coaches responsible for the $7.7 million payout are gone to smaller programs. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof was fired and escaped to Central Florida, while offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn found the “right fit” in the feel good story of the year by taking over Arkansas State. The defending BCS Champs had a historic drop off this season, mustering a 7-5 record and getting blown out by the five best teams they faced.

Florida had one of the most disappointing records in modern program history, but a first-year transition from a spread attack to a pro set took its toll. Will Muschamp & Co. have some work to do on the recruiting trail and are on their way to doing so (if you buy national recruiting rankings as such an indicator). But 6-6 seasons with trips down the road to the Gator Bowl don’t constitute a sufficient return on $6.3 mil.

Arkansas lost two games this year, and both were to the two teams playing for all of the sugar cubes. Bobby Petrino has the Hogs in the Cotton--a popular bowl destination for Razorback fans. Last season, Petrino & Co. played themselves into a Sugar Bowl berth. Arkansas is on the right path and the money’s well spent, right?

No. 2 Alabama and No.4 LSU are unquestionable successes in the cost vs. performance analysis. The two programs are set to square off and determine which SEC program wins the conference’s sixth straight national title. For LSU, it would be the second in five years. For Alabama, it would be its second in three years. BCS bowls. Donors opening checkbooks. Years-long waiting lists for season ticket packages. National coaching awards. Players getting invited to awards ceremonies in Orlando, New York and Charlotte and taking home some hardware.

Alabama and LSU have the best coaching staffs in the country and the results speak for themselves. One of the two head coaches will bring home another crystal ball and it’s hard to argue with that return on investment.

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