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May 30, 2012

Over the weekend Pitt released info on the highest paid university employees for the past fiscal year (July 2010-June 2011).

Ex-head football coach Dave Wannstedt was actually the top earner at $1,859,357. That number seems higher than what his salary was believed to be. Considering his termination, I figure the number is higher than expected because he got something of a buyout on his contract on top of his salary for the year.

Coach Jamie Dixon had a boost from previous earnings to be getting over $1.8 million for the season. That isn’t too surprising given the overall success, and offers he’s had. There’s no question that the money is a reason why he hasn’t been hired away by other programs in the past couple years. To make it worth his while to leave where he is established, a program would now have to start the offer at $2.5 million just to get him to seriously listen. Not even to leave. Just to take the offer seriously.

That’s a lot for a college basketball coach. A figure not many are that willing to pay as a starting figure — even for an established coach.

According to the USA Today database, only 9 schools pay their coaches at $2.5 million or more (OSU, MSU, Marquette, Kentucky, Louisville, Kansas, Florida, Duke and UConn). After that, 9 schools pay $2 million or more (Indiana, Michigan, Purdue, Texas, Wisconsin, WVU, Arkansas, Arizona and UCLA). Marquette is the only surprise on the list, but Buzz Williams has been a surprisingly good coach who has attracted a lot of deep-pocketed attention the last couple of years.

Essentially, the salary and looking at the only ones making significantly more really drives home why the annual spring Dixon rumors is a waste of time. The money isn’t going to be that much better, but the job will probably be worse to start. And it isn’t just Coach Dixon who is not jumping. When you look at the list of 18 schools paying $2 million or more, only Arkansas and Arizona hired their guys within the last couple of years.

For all the big-name coaching carousel rumors every year, there isn’t a lot of big movement. Matt Painter listened but stayed at Purdue. Illinois, Maryland, NC State, Oregon, Texas A&M, Missouri and other programs either flush with cash and/or placing a high value on their basketball program all found themselves having to settle for third, fourth choices or worse.

Interesting that the ACC — the basketball league — does not have a lot of big money coaches. Minor skewing with Roy Williams apparently giving his alma mater a bit of a discount. There is an explanation for that, though. There’s been a lot of turnover in the ACC with coaches.

Let’s take a quick tour around the conference, specifically the portions of the league not found in Durham or Chapel Hill. In order of seniority in their current positions, the head coaches are as follows:

Leonard Hamilton, Florida State Seminoles: 10 seasons
Tony Bennett, Virginia Cavaliers: three seasons
Steve Donahue, Boston College Eagles: two seasons
Brad Brownell, Clemson Tigers: two seasons
Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest Demon Deacons: two seasons
Brian Gregory, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: one season
Mark Turgeon, Maryland Terrapins: one season
Jim Larranaga, Miami Hurricanes: one season
Mark Gottfried, North Carolina State Wolfpack: one season
James Johnson, Virginia Tech: zero seasons

That works out to an average of 2.3 ACC years per coach for people not named either “Mike Krzyzewski” or “Roy Williams.” When we repeat this experiment in the other major conferences (set aside the two winningest programs of the past five conference seasons and look at coaching tenures in the rest of the league), we discover this is the briefest length of service to be found anywhere. Simply put, Duke and North Carolina dominate their league more than any other major-conference duo, and the other 10 coaches in the ACC are newer to their gigs than are any other group of major-conference coaches. There’s probably a connection.

Obviously this average number for seasons served in one’s current position will register a healthy increase with the addition of Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim (36 seasons) and Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon (nine seasons) to the league — whenever that finally comes to pass. But that’s kind of my point. We know that all conference expansion is either driven by or at least highly aware of football, but in pure basketball terms the ACC gives the appearance of having to import worthy foes for North Carolina and Duke.

The Big East has been a meat grinder for basketball, but 5 different teams have won the regular season title since 2005, and 6 different teams have won the Big East Tournament. Obviously the Big East has a lot of excellent coaches, but there has also been more balance even at the top of the Big East as opposed to the ACC. That has actually been better for coaches to be given more of a chance to establish themselves and their programs.

I’m surprised Jim Boeheim at Syracuse isn’t above the $2M threshold. I’m sure his compensation package well exceeds $2M but like Roy Williams, he probably gives the university a discount and is rewarded in bonuses, etc. other than pure salary.

Very interesting post, Chas. Thanks!

Comment by JAM 05 Pitt 05.30.12 @ 9:07 am

As I recall, Wannstedt had the 2nd lowest salary in the BE for FB coaches — guaranteed that his buyout was included.

You may recall that in the search for his replacement, they were not competitve which probably led to the 1st hiring … but then was forced to raise the salary to approx $2m to sign Fraud … who makes even more now at ASU … both times in Wall St venture (vulture) capitalistic moves, taking advantage of desperate ADs.

Comment by wbb 05.30.12 @ 9:14 am


Comment by Rev. George Mehaffey 05.30.12 @ 10:51 am

How can it be that Mike Brey at ND only makes $573k. There must be some serious non salary (radio, tv) money in his contract.

Comment by HbgFrank 05.30.12 @ 12:43 pm

But the chicks are free.

Comment by TX Panther 05.30.12 @ 1:55 pm

Surprise, surprise, college football is big business! After crapping their pants on the Heywood hire, Pederson and the university didn’t seem to hesitated on paying the big bucks to get Graham. We all saw how well that decision turned out. If you hire a guy like Bobby Petrino or Todd Graham who has a history of little or no loyalty, the university loses out. I think the character of the guy you hire matters, that’s why I like Jamie Dixon and Paul Chryst.

Comment by Justinian 05.30.12 @ 2:54 pm

I have no problem with the salaries, if you want to be the best you have to pay. Well worth it. I hate to change topic but just saw a couple of articles on scout that are very interesting and optimistic. The first is the announcement of Ray Graham and Aaron Donald being named preseason 1st and 2nd team nationally, as well as D. Street, R. Turnley, J. Holley, and C. Jacobson 1st and 2nd team Big East. Should help with recruiting and more optimistic for the upcoming season. The other article spoke about Richt from Georgia asking for a 4 team SEC playoff. If that’s the case then maybe the ACC and Big 12 should have a playoff to play the SEC champ. These playoffs would be the mid level bowl games then leading up to the major bowls and championship game. Don’t know but just a thought.

Comment by 87Panther 05.30.12 @ 6:19 pm

I’m asking for a raise tomorrow.

Comment by Dr. Tom 05.30.12 @ 7:10 pm

Dr.Tom, You probably deserve it! Rev. George from Columbus

Comment by Rev. George Mehaffey 05.30.12 @ 10:30 pm

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