Two weeks ago then Miami Dolphins Coach Nick Saban said loud and clear that he was not going to be the coach at Alabama. So now many are calling Saban a liar and talking about his lack of credibility and integrity. I disagree on the first part, but agree with the second. Saban’s flat out denial was a mistake, but I suspect at the time he figured it probably was true or at least might be.
Well, turns out the Crimson Tide got desperate and threw obscene dollars at the former LSU mentor to get him back into the college game. You think $ Four million goes a long way in South Florida? Try spending that kind of loot in Tuscaloosa.
Now as for credibility and integrity, Saban has some problems. He’s going to have to look into the eyes of high school seniors and their parents and say, ‘trust me’. How can anyone believe him? Now the kids will forgive him quickly enough. One look at Saban’s national championship ring and one tour of the Bear Bryant museum will take care of that. But he’ll have a long way to go to convince parents and high school coaches that his word means anything.
If you factor the Shula buyout into the equation and add in several assistant coach buyouts and new hirings, Alabama will be spending in excess of $ five million a year more for football coaching skills in the next several seasons. That’s a lot of cabbage just to try and beat Auburn again.
Other Schools Will Also Have to Pay
Saban’s ridiculous $ 32 million plus deal with Alabama will cost just about every top flight program big money. It happened when Steve Spurrier cracked the $ Two million mark with his final UF contract and it will happen again this time around. Maybe Jim Tressel will be the first to cash in, or perhaps it will be Pete Carroll, or Bob Stoops, or Mack Brown or even Urban Meyer. Someone will get a call from the NFL or from another school and the bigger bucks will start flying in. And schools have only themselves to blame.
I don’t begrudge anyone the chance to make as much money as they can. It’s the American way to do the best you can for yourself and your family. But the time has long since passed for NCAA schools to dig in and hold the line on coach compensation.
The reason why coaching salaries have skyrocketed in the last 15 years is that schools desperate to hire the “right guy” lose all common sense when it comes to contract terms. Sure, give a coach a five year, $ Six million deal, but put in a HUGE buyout. A multi-year multi-million dollar investment from a school should, no MUST include a reciprocal commitment from the coach. For too long coaches have had it both ways. The school commits but the coach walks when he’s in the mood. It’s not right and it needs to change, and perhaps the Saban deal will make that happen.
It’s Not the Price of Greatness that Hurts
No matter what schools pay certain coaches it’s worth it. Steve Spurrier at Florida, Bobby Bowden, Joe Paterno and Pete Carroll are worth more than they ever collected. The problem is when these deals are used as benchmarks for everyone’s deal. Certainly Ron Zook had to be half as good as Steve Spurrier; so he got $ One million a year despite never having been a head coach above the high school level. He ended up making about $ Five million over three years. Now every football coach in the SEC with the exception of Bobby Johnson at Vandy is going to be in the millionaire’s club and several have yet to prove they can win at this level.
Years ago a major league baseball owner was lambasting the system of arbitration that had been put in place to settle salary disputes in certain cases. His words ring as true today as they did back then. I don’t remember the man who said it, but he was right on target. “Salary arbitration will put every team at the mercy of the stupidest owner.” The point was each arbitration hearing would be based on the worst contract given to a comparable athlete. The same can be said for big money coaches. It wasn’t Spurrier or Bowden reaching the million mark that was costly; it was Baylor giving Guy Morris $ 800 Grand a year and contracts like that which helped raise almost every major Division one-A coach to an absurd level.
So now Saban joins Charlie Weis and Stoops (and perhaps one or two others) in the $ Three million plus club. But look for that group will triple in size in the next three to five years. It’s not all that costly for schools that have the right guy heading up their programs. But it’s going to kill the ones that bet on the wrong horse.