As NCAA zeroes in on college football staff sizes, survey shows inconsistencies

Notre Dame has the largest football staff in the country, according to an NCAA survey obtained exclusively by CBS Sports.

Now for some perspective: Notre Dame's number – obtained via a preliminary look at the NCAA's next big dig down on outsized college football ambitions -- should definitely be taken with a grain of salt.

"Six or seven grains of salt," said Bob Bowlsby, chairman of the NCAA Oversight Committee that will have first crack at recommending staff size limitations.

The Irish have a combined 45 on-field coaches, strength coaches, graduate assistants and support staff, according to the survey distributed to the NCAA Council last month. Notre Dame is followed closely in the top five by Texas (44), Georgia (42), Auburn (41) and Michigan (40).

However, the NCAA told CBS Sports the methodology to measure the staff sizes of 127 FBS schools in 2016 came from mere website research.

There has been an outcry from coaches and reformers about staff sizes as they relate to competitive advantage. Bowlsby said last month staff size would be one of two up-front issues to get a comprehensive look by his committee this year.

At one point on a conference call last month, Bowlsby made reference to unnamed program that had 97 staff members.

Bowlsby and NCAA Council chair Jim Phillips stressed the preliminary nature of the survey numbers. That suggests the survey -- besides being way early in the process -- is at best incomplete and sometimes inaccurate.

It is largely perceived in coaching circles that Alabama, not Notre Dame, has the largest staff. In the survey, Alabama is credited with a total staff size of 31. According to the survey, that would tie Missouri and Ole Miss for sixth in the SEC and tie for 28th nationally.

The Crimson Tide are credited with just one strength and conditioning staff member. A quick check of Alabama's own website shows the program employs the NCAA maximum five strength coaches.

"We've got some work to be done," said Bowlsby while commenting on the survey's preliminary results.

Schools are allowed a maximum of nine on-field coaches, those five strength coaches and four graduate assistants. However, in recent years, support staff members have grown to include so-called analysts, consultants, player relations and player personnel types -- even volunteers.

Support staff aren't allowed to have interaction with players on the field for practice or games.

The number of those added support staff is not capped. In fact, some argue that the NCAA should limit staff size even as they try to determine whether such a restriction can be legally instituted.

"You got it," said Phillips, also Northwestern's athletic director. "Maybe you can't limit [it], but the idea is that's how we've structured ourselves in the past. That's why we don't have seven assistant basketball coaches."

The Division I basketball limit is three full-time assistants. The NCAA approved a 10th full-time, on-field football assistant coach last month. That move goes into effect in January.

"Sure you can [limit staff sizes]," said Todd Berry, executive director of American Football Coaches Association. "… There is a concern, rightfully so, in relation to litigation. The NCAA is apprehensive as anyone would be."

The survey lists staff in five categories: on-field coaches, strength and conditioning, graduate assistants, football operations and off-field/recruiting.

The first three categories are considered static numbers limited by the NCAA. It's the last two categories -- football ops and off field/recruiting -- that are unlimited.

Using just those support staff numbers, Georgia (23) is No. 1 in the survey, followed by Clemson (22), Michigan (22), Texas (22) and Alabama (20).

Notre Dame is credited with 19 support staffers.

"I guess it's a paranoia that we all have, that somebody else is doing something that I am allowed to and everybody else is allowed to do," Nick Saban told reporters last month, "but you choose to do it."

Texas coach Tom Herman earlier this month detailed for reporters his 17-person support staff: "four grad assistants, four quality control guys, three in operations, one as our director of players development, three full-time in recruiting, three full-time in creative media."

Texas has the largest athletic budget in the country at more than $160 million.

"Limits should not penalize the schools that might be able to generate more revenue and afford staffs like that," Herman said. "At some point it gets a little bit ridiculous."

Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said there was a general movement among coaches a few years ago to cap staff sizes at 25.

"I don't think that's going to be a realistic number now," Bohl said. "I think my point is just make sure that the coaching number is the same, the number of guys who can leave campus is the same.

"Outside of that, whoever has resources to do whatever they can do is fine."

Phillips was asked if programs could even be compelled to turn in the staff size information to the NCAA.

"I think it's going to be paramount that people are brutally honest about how many individuals they have working with the sport of football," he said. "If people want to cover up and tell half truths about what their staff size really is doesn't help us get to a good place for everybody."

Among Group of Five conferences, Temple and Houston were tops at 30 total staff members. Tulane and Toledo (28) as well as Troy, Boise and Western Kentucky (27) followed.

Not surprisingly, there is a clear delineation between average staff sizes of the Power Five and Group of Five.

ConferenceAverage Staff Size (per NCAA survey)

Big Ten

31.6

SEC

31.5

ACC

29.0

Big 12

28.8

Pac-12

28.6

American

25.0

MAC

21.5

Conference USA

21.0

Sun Belt

20.9

Mountain West

20.3

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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