Sunday, July 8, 2007

Football salaries

This article in USA Today was published before Bama decided to pay Nick Saban $4 million per year to be their football coach. It discusses coaches' salaries, with several basic statistical points:
  • The average of Division 1-A schools is almost $1 million per year.
  • The average at BCS conferences is $1.4 million per year.
  • The average at non-BCS conferences in Division 1-A is about $0.5 million per year
  • Nine coaches (as of last November) make more than $2 million per year. One can imagine that Urban Meyer is ahead of that benchmark now as well. The highest was Bob Stoops' almost $3.5 million per year, until Saban eclipsed it.
Incidentally, as of that writing, Les Miles is mid-pack in the SEC where the highest pre-Saban salary was Tommy Tuberville's $2.2 million per year. As I've said, Tommy's earned it.

But that's not my point. My brother brought up an interesting conundrum some college administrators face. These coaches' contracts are laced with incentives, and one common incentive is undoubtedly, "If Coach So-and-So wins the BCS National Championship, his salary is automatically to escalate to the highest salary in college football," or the average of the 5 highest salaries. With Nick Saban now breaking new salary ground, are certain schools priced out of the national championship hunt simply because they cannot afford to pay their coach the incentive bonus in his contract?

What would happen if, say, Vanderbilt were to put together a story-book undefeated run this season? If Bobby Johnson's contract has an expensive incentive tied to Nick Saban's salary, would they decline an invitation to the National Championship game? If you think this is so unlikely of a scenario, just ask yourself who would have thought Wake Forest would be a BCS team last year, or that Rutgers would be a serious National Championship contender through more than half of last season?

I remember back several years ago reading that small-money indie-rockers were actually asking friendly radio stations NOT to play their songs, because they couldn't afford the commissions they had to pay their promoters for getting on radio play lists. This strikes me as a similar scenario, whereby a university may pull itself out of national championship contention simply because it cannot afford to win it. It is a nightmare scenario for the NCAA and one which, honestly, I have no idea if it could really happen.

You can say, "If this happens, you can only blame the university for locking itself into a contract that it couldn't afford to pay." Fair enough, it would be the university that would be to blame, but that doesn't change the fact that this would be terribly embarrassing for the NCAA, would call into question the legitimacy of the national championship in that year, and would shine a very unwelcome light on the world of big-money college football.

Here's hoping it never happens.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How are you feeling about this now that...

1. Miles had his contract rewritten and now makes more than Saban (before incentives)

2. Bama's football revenue is up $10,000,000 and its general university donations are up another $10,000,000 since Saban was hired?

3. And you can't put a dollar amount on the worst beatdown of Auburn in 46 years.

I'm no economist, but I'd say Saban has earned his $4,000,000. I'm guessing that Forbes Magazine would agree.