We need to talk about college football coaching salaries.

Look, I’m never going to get mad at someone for cashing a check. You shouldn’t either. 

I’ve never been to a movie theater and seen empty concession lines. 

If someone wants to pay movie theater prices for M&M’s and Skittles, when pants pockets and purses are perfect for candy smuggling, that’s on them. What I’m not gonna do is hate on the movie theater for taking their cash.

But just like people standing in line at the theater, volunteering to get ripped off, these colleges continue to pay out the nose for college football coaches, stacking years of guaranteed salary and escalating outlandish buyouts because they think it will correlate to Alabama-like results. 

Well, two things about that-

1) You’re not Alabama, and…

2) Alabama is rewarding Nick Saban for years of results. 

Imagine going to a car dealership in hopes of purchasing a Lamborghini, but all the lot has available is a variety of used Kia Sorrentos. What would a normal person do in that scenario? Maybe look at a different dealership? Maybe delay their plans? Maybe settle for a Sorrento? I don’t know, I guess it depends on the person. 

What a normal person would NOT do is offer the dealership Lamborghini money for the Sorrento and just hope that a Kia magically gains the ability to hit 60 in less than four seconds. 

Now, you might be listening to me right now and thinking, “Wow, George is really going in on Texas A&M for having Jimbo Fisher locked up through 2027, and then handing him four more years and a raise on top of that despite a body of work that doesn’t even measure up to what Kevin Sumlin accomplished.”

And you’re right, I am. But it’s not just a College Station problem.

Halfway through the season, four of the top 10 coaches in annual salary outside of Nick Saban have losing records. One of those coaches, Mel Tucker, has NINE years left on his contract after this one. 

And you might be saying, “Sure, but Michigan State poached Mel Tucker from Colorado, so maybe they were just making sure they don’t get cheated on by the partner they cheated with.”

But Michigan State didn’t include a large buyout for Mel Tucker should he look to jump to the SEC. All they did was bid against themselves to ensure that if things in East Lansing went south, the boosters that volunteered to fund this contract were on the hook. 

And that Mel Tucker contract, which should have been an anomaly because of the way it’s being funded, ended up setting the market. If you are a Perennial top 25 team in the Power 5, or even if you’re one of these “Stella” schools like Miami trying to get your groove back, these coaches’ agents are going to point to Jimbo Fisher and Mel Tucker and Brian Kelly and say “unless you’re willing to drop $80-100 million, you’re out of the game.”

Nothing about the way these colleges keep falling for the con makes any sense. Why does any college coach need a 10-year contract? Think about it, any time Jimbo Fisher loses a game, which he’s done more in the last 13 months than Nick Saban has in the last six years, he gets closer and closer to Aggie fans demanding that he be paid a near-$86 million dollar buyout. 

Think about that ungodly amount of money while I read you a quote from former LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron in my best Coach O voice:

Scott Woodward is a friend of mine today, really. Lot of respect for the way that they handled me. He said ‘Coach, you got 17.1 million dollars on your contract; we’re going to give it to you.’

“I said, ‘What time you want me to leave and what door do you want me to leave out of brother?’”

Scott Woodward is a friend of mine today, really. Lot of respect for the way that they handled me. He said ‘Coach, you got 17.1 million dollars on your contract; we’re going to give it to you.’

“I said, ‘What time you want me to leave and what door do you want me to leave out of brother?’”

Ed Orgeron

If that’s the way that Ed Orgeron reacted to being handed a check for $17 million to walk out the door, how do you think Jimbo is going to react to getting five times that?

Jimbo Fisher might just crip-walk from end zone to end zone in Kyle Field. 

I might be more upset at the lack of sense being displayed by college administrators if we didn’t currently live in a world where players could be compensated for their name, image and likeness. Seeing a coach get a 10-year fully guaranteed contract to be mediocre stings a lot less when you know Bojangles is writing checks to quarterbacks that are getting benched. 

But I want to circle back to one of the reasons so many of these colleges pushed back on the idea of players getting compensated at all. 

There is an entire economic network built on the idea that a group of athletes were giving their best effort because the only guarantee that their effort would be compensated is if they were good enough to make it to the NFL. 
Colleges worried that if the players were rewarded right now, their motivation to push themselves to higher heights would be diminished, and in turn, disturb the access to the pot of gold for everyone else. 

College administrators and the NCAA have done and said a lot of evil things in the name of keeping all the rewards for themselves, but this particular train of thought isn’t necessarily evil, in fact, it’s perfectly logical. We see it in boxing all the time- an athlete goes 30-0 on his way to a title fight, wins a belt and a purse, then struggles to make weight in their next bout and spends the next 10 years losing half their fights. 

While that train of thought isn’t evil, it is hypocritical, especially when schools have no problem handing out life-changing Saban-level money to coaches that aren’t Nick Saban. 

For guys like Jimbo Fisher and Ed Orgeron, they might be wired to give everything they have to try and win, but the industry of college football has taken away the sting of losing. 

For Jimbo Fisher, there is no such thing as a loss. There is only winning, and negative winning. 

That direct deposit hits no matter what. 

Let that sink in.

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