College football coaches trade down their job titles, trade up in wealth

College football coaches trade down their job titles, trade up in wealth

Why is the South Alabama head coach who pummeled OSU last season taking an Alabama coordinator’s job? It makes a lot of sense. And cents.

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

| Jan 19, 2024, 6:00am CST

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

Jan 19, 2024, 6:00am CST

The week of the OSU-South Alabama game, I made the tongue-halfway-in-cheek prediction that Jaguars head coach Kane Wommack would take an SEC job after the season – the head coaching position at South Carolina. That felt more plausible after USA pummeled OSU 33-7.  

Sure enough, Wommack got himself an SEC gig… as a defensive coordinator. New Alabama leader Kalen DeBoer just hired Wommack for the role. 

DeBoer is also reportedly hiring Buffalo head coach Maurice Linguist for the Tide’s defensive staff. 

This while Toledo head coach Jason Candle is being floated as a candidate to become Ohio State’s offensive coordinator

This one year after Deion Sanders hired Kent State head coach Sean Lewis to become Colorado’s offensive coordinator. 

Let’s stop and think about this for a second.

There are circumstances to every coaching move. Wommack referred to DeBoer as “one of my best friends in this profession” during an interview with Al.com. Linguist just went 3-9 and is 14-23 as Lance Leipold’s successor at Buffalo. Lewis told The Athletic he bolted Kent State after falling short during Cincinnati’s head coaching search. 

Lewis’ trip took a weird turn last November when Sanders demoted him and he wound up head coach at San Diego State. He’ll make $1.75 million next season with the Aztecs, or triple what he made at Kent State. 

Let’s think about that circumstance, the one no coach likes to talk about but can’t be ignored because it grows through college football like Jack’s Beanstalk. 

Cash. 

According to USA Today’s head coach salary database, Wommack was making $810,000 at South Alabama. Linguist was making $684,500 at Buffalo. 

According to USA Today’s assistant coach database, former Alabama defensive coordinator Kevin Steele made $1.9 million. Former Alabama cornerbacks coach Travaris Robinson was making $800,000. 

That means Wommack can expect to double his salary as Bama defensive coordinator, and Linguist, speculated to be Bama’s secondary coach if not a coordinator in some capacity, can expect a raise. It will likely be in the ballpark of the $350,000 bump Lewis received by leaving Kent State for Colorado.

Candle does all right by Mid-American Conference salary standards at $1.1 million. Brian Hartline made $1.6 million last season as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator in a system where Ryan Day called the shots. If Day relinquishes the offense to Candle, or anybody, that coach can expect to match the $1.9 million salary of fully empowered Buckeyes defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.

Remember what Mike Gundy said he told OSU’s dejected players over the news of Knowles’ 2021 departure?

“Business is business.”

“Tay Martin, you’re playing for Oklahoma State,” Gundy went on. “We’re paying you 800 grand. Tyler Junior College calls you and says they’ll pay you $2.38 million if you go play for them. You can stay here or you can go play for Tyler. It’s your choice.”

Business is business is why name, image and likeness revenue opportunities run neck-and-neck with playing time opportunities for thousands of transferring college football players. 

Business is business is also why salary advancement runs neck-and-neck with career advancement for coaches who trade mid-to-low-FBS level head jobs for assistant positions at the power level. 

If coaches are being honest, salary advancement will overtake career advancement as the separation of college football wealth intensifies. 

Wommack referenced DeBoer and Alabama’s talent while explaining his Crimson Tide attraction. He also mentioned the word “resources.” 

Here’s what that looks like compared to his old gig, according to Sportico’s college athletics financial database:

For the fiscal year 2021-22, South Alabama made $12.1 in football revenue, $3 million in conference and NCAA distributions, $1.7 million in donations, $869,000 in licensing and ads, and $0 in media rights.

Alabama made $130 million in football revenue, $15 million in conference and NCAA distributions, $52 million in donations, $15 million in licensing and ads and $53 million in media rights.

That it pays to coach football in the SEC versus the Sun Belt Conference is hardly breaking news. How much more it pays is what boggles the mind. Run the numbers for any Big Ten, Big 12 or ACC program versus one from the MAC, Mountain West or C-USA, the disparity boggles still. 

It leads to an understanding of why a separation between college football “haves” and “have nots” has risen above reflexive rhetoric to the point it is being considered by no less a figure than the NCAA president

College football is a corporation from which head coaches at A-list programs have always cashed in. That just now trickles down to players. We notice thanks to NIL and the transfer portal.

As Wommack re-enters our news cycle, we notice head coaches at B-list programs cashing in, too, even if that means taking A-list assistant jobs. 

It might not make a lot of sense at first glance. Not from the standpoint of professional upward mobility.

It does make a lot of cents. That becomes clearer as the gulf between those A and B programs becomes wider.

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Guerin Emig is a columnist for the Sellout Crowd network. Read his work at selloutcrowd.com and guerinemig.com. Reach out with feedback and/or ideas at [email protected] or (918) 629-6229. Follow him on Twitter at @GuerinEmig and Instagram at @guerin.emig. .

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