The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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January 17, 2011

College football coaches’ salaries are terribly out of control

MORGANTOWN — What a difference just 44 years can make!

The late Gene Corum, who resigned as West Virginia University’s head football coach in 1966, was being paid a pitiful $15,000 after holding that position for six years. What’s more, he taught a couple of classes in physical education during the offseason.

Now WVU has a “head football coach in waiting,” Dana Holgorsen, who will be paid $1.4 million annually when he takes over from Bill Stewart in 2012. He is 39 years old and has no previous head coaching experience.

But Holgorsen is serving as offensive coordinator this year, and he has been highly successful constructing offenses at three other major colleges in as many years. He’s going to receive a lot of money in that role, too, at WVU.

To clear the path for Holgorsen, Oliver Luck, the new WVU athletic director since last July 1, fired all of the former offensive unit’s assistants. And in doing so, Luck paid them a total of $1.5 million to share.

The principal point of this piece is that they’re spending money like it’s going out of style in the educational institution’s athletic department.

It also should be noted that Luck, an Academic All-America quarterback for the Mountaineers (1978-79-80-81), is by far the highest paid ever to fill the AD post.

Luck, who reportedly has yet to sign a contract, was hired for $380,000 annually, plus incentives. That’s $152,000 per year more than recently retired Ed Pastilong’s salary ($228,000) for serving 21 years as athletic director.

And Luck had no previous administrative experience in intercollegiate athletics. But he did have extensive experience in business and professional sports.

Make no mistake, college football coaching salaries are out of control from coast to coast. And I blame the presidents of the nation’s perennial powers (such as USC, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, etc.) for letting those get out of whack.

Some head coaches are getting as much as $5 million a year. As many predicted, such outrageous salaries eventually would affect those who buy tickets to attend football games. It’s costing some folks more than $50 per ticket, others even more.

That was inevitable, and the tickets will continue to become more expensive as the years roll on.

Getting back to Gentlemen Gene Corum and his “tip-money salary,” he had just three assistant coaches then. Today the NCAA-controlled maximum is nine.

About 10 years after Corum quit coaching, Bobby Bowden guided his 1975 WVU team to a 9-3 record. He felt really good about that season, his sixth, and well he should have.

So Bowden, now a College Football Hall of Famer, went to Stewart Hall and sought a bonus for each of his assistants.

Dr. James Harlow, then the WVU president, asked, “Why?” Bowden explained, “Their excellent preparation and execution in winning our bowl game.”

Harlow, who like other presidents then had to approve coaches’ salaries, refused. “My friend,” he said, “I have a lot of professors and others out there who also do excellent jobs in preparation and execution, and I can’t give them bonuses.”

Bowden left soon after that and became a legend at Florida State.

He’s now enjoying a rich retirement, financially, and living nicely in a distinctly different era.

But, is it really for the better?

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