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.