Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Les Can Buy a Lot of New Hats

Q: How does the $3.751 million man wear his hat?
A: However he likes.

Those jokes never get old.

Les Miles finally finished renegotiating his contract, and obviously it's the talk of the football world for a day or two. Being here in Alabama, obviously I get an ear-full of the Alabama perspective.

When certain balding, deliberately provocative radio personalities deliberately try to provoke us, the best thing to do is not to respond at all. That's the last word about that particular subject, but there are others.

Obviously, the figure of $3.751 million per year was not chosen randomly or on accident. It happens to be $1,000 per year more than Nick Saban's salary at Alabama. If Les Miles cares about money (and I suspect deep down he probably doesn't), Nick Saban is his best friend in the world, because without Nick Saban's return to Alabama, Les wouldn't be nearly as wealthy.

The reason for this, as is apparent to those paying attention, is that Les Miles' previous contract called for him to be the 3rd highest paid coach in the country if he won the National Championship. He did it, but it became hard to determine exactly how much Charlie Weis and Pete Carroll made, because they are at private schools and need not report their salaries. LSU and Miles settled on his becoming the highest-paid coach in the SEC. The previous highest-paid SEC coach was Nick Saban, at $3.75 million per year.

If you're trying to read more into it than that, I think you're wrong.

On the JOX morning show, one of the guys recalled Alabama getting criticism for paying Saban so much while living in a poor state with a poor education system, and wondered if LSU would get the same criticism for overspending. It's an interesting point, but I believe there is a significant difference in the situations.

When Alabama gave Nick Saban his contract, Alabama dramatically escalated the arms race between big-time football programs. It was expected that this signaled an acceleration in the rise in coaches' salaries nation-wide, which had already been escalating quickly for years. Alabama was seen as raising the bar further, which would lead to rising ticket prices and the decline of non-football sports, as football took up more and more of the entertainment money at football schools.

LSU giving Miles a salary roughly equal to Saban's is the result. It is the realization of the fear that Saban's salary would increase coaches' salaries nation-wide. People feared Alabama's actions signaled a change in the way football programs worked across the country, and LSU's actions confirm it. We will see more and more of it in the coming months and years as coaches like Mark Richt, Urban Meyer, and Tommy Tuberville are probably going to be looking at big raises next time it comes time to renegotiate their contracts.

The difference is that LSU is reacting to market trends while Bama rocked the market and changed the trends.

If you want to know the long term impact, you can look more at what has become of Alabama. In recent weeks, Alabama has taken several actions that appear to be designed to save money:
  1. Announced a cancellation of plans to expand Bryant-Denny Stadium, specifically naming economic concerns as the primary factor.
  2. Apparently decided not to fire Mark Gottfried at least in part to avoid paying a hefty severance.
  3. Hired a women's basketball coach on the cheap from within the current University payroll, a guy with little or no qualifications for the job other than the fact that he apparently doesn't cost much money.
It is apparent that Alabama is trying to avoid big outlays of money, and even the football program feels the impact. Is it connected to Nick Saban's salary? It's impossible for me to say, but let's keep an eye on situations around the country as salaries continue to escalate.

One More Thing: Get your teams in before games start tomorrow.

1 comment:

gerry dorsey said...

the football program at alabama covers its ass financially and then some. if you think nick saban's salary impacted the WOMEN'S BASKETBALL TEAM you're insane. if the alabama football coach was making $1.75 mil, would bama's new women's b-ball coach be some program savior with a hefty salary?? i'm doubting it seriously. and its a similar, story with gottfried.

as for the stadium, the financial shortcomings were with the state of alabama, not any money that goes to nick saban. the university had a decision to make...use stadium expansion money to stave off a tuition increase due to reduced state funds, or expand the stadium and raise tuition. which do you think they did??

bottom line, nick saban's salary is not affecting these things. good try though.