Tommy Tuberville's asking price is $2.5 million.
No, not for his services. Tubs' $2.8 million salary means his family doesn't have to buy in bulk at Costco. Auburn's coach is one of the best-compensated, winningest -- and most consistent -- coaches in the SEC. Just ask Alabama.
|Coordinators have come and gone to bigger spots under Tuberville at Auburn. (Getty Images)|
"That's an average," he said. "Depending on how much you have to pay our coordinators, you might have to take them out of the equation. Have your own budget for your coordinators, have another budget for your other seven assistants."
And thus, it was written: The age of the rock star coordinator is upon us, sometime in the past year, it seems. All they lack, at times, is entourages. Two SEC schools changed coaches in the offseason, but 13 new coordinators were hired. Several of them have agents. Agents!
Why not? Representatives flock to where the money is and coordinators are making more of it. To get Will Muschamp from Auburn, Texas had to negotiate with siuper-agent Jimmy Sexton who represents several high-profile college coaches.
To no one's surprise, Texas might have the highest-paid staff in the country. It's Texas. But the two coordinators -- Muschamp on defense and Greg Davis on offense -- each will make $425,000.
At least 13 I-A coordinators made $325,000 last season, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Among those were Florida State's Jimbo Fisher, who had quite a 2007. After seven years at LSU, the career assistant came to FSU as offensive coordinator in January 2007. By December he was named coach-in-waiting to replace Bobby Bowden at a salary that is now $625,000 per season.
By comparison, Gary Crowton is way underpaid. All Crowton did was coordinate the offense for LSU's second national championship in five years. Compensation: A paltry $400,000 per season.
"What I think has happened, is they're (schools) starting to push the assistants," Fisher said. "It's harder and harder to go out there and find future head coaches. The NFL is paying so well. It's the only way you can keep top people in college football.
"It used to be if you had any success and you had a chance to go to pro ball, boom, the money would drag you in. If they keep doing that, college ball had to do something to keep something in college football."
If the head coach is becoming the CEO, coordinators are increasingly the chief operating officers. Muschamp, a boy wonder at 36, parlayed a rough edge and rougher defenses he developed at LSU, Auburn and the Miami Dolphins into becoming one of the Mick Jaggers of his profession.
"ESPN has a lot to do with that," Tuberville said. "I was a product of that. When I was at Miami as defensive coordinator, they talked about me. That's how I got my name in several jobs. The exposure is really going to help you in the eyes of an AD. Most of those guys really don't know much about coordinators."
In the interest of fairness (and satisfying CBS bosses), it's not just ESPN that televises college football. And Muschamp knows that the flavor-of-the-month thing cuts both ways. As long as he improves a defense that was the seventh-worst in Texas history, there will be little interference. If not, he can walk down the hall and ask Duane Akina. It was Akina who was demoted to secondary coach after being co-coordinator of last year's shoddy defense.
Fisher is so hot he risked breaching his contract by talking to West Virginia in the offseason. A clause in Fisher's deal states that if he were to leave for another job over the next three years he would owe $2.5 million.
The Orlando Sentinel reported the contract specifically says Fisher would owe the money if he were to "seek, solicit, invite, discuss, entertain, interview for, or accept any offer," to coach at another school. FSU president T.K. Wetherell said recently that Fisher did not breach his contract when he spoke to West Virginia.
That might be more Wetherell wanting to keep Fisher happy than a strict interpretation of the contract. It's obvious Fisher was interested in coaching the Mountaineers.
"It was a situation where I could have gone home and we were negotiating," said Fisher, a native West Virginian. "The more I got to thinking about it, I didn't want to leave Florida State. Florida State is still one of the top jobs in the country. ... As great a job as (West Virginia) is, this one here can be everything you want it to be."
Tuberville has been through coordinator upheaval. Texas has snatched up two defensive coordinators -- Gene Chizik, now the Iowa State head coach, and Muschamp. Tuberville didn't blink after 2007 when he had to replace both coordinators. OC Al Borges resigned and was replaced by Troy's Tony Franklin. Muschamp was replaced by Pittsburgh's Paul Rhoads. The salaries for each aren't available but you can bet they didn't come cheap. Auburn needed replacements, quickly.
Tuberville might be cutting his throat by constantly promoting his coordinators, but he doesn't care. As quickly as he breeds hot young talent, they can leave.
"I let my guys talk, I let them interview, talk to all the media after practice every day," Tuberville said. "A lot of coaches don't do that. They tie their hands because they don't want them out in front. Sooner or later you've got to let them speak for themselves."
Maybe that's why somewhere along the line these coordinators have become more than mere assistants. They became play-calling jock stars with their own weekly press conferences, clinics, camps and instructional DVDs.
Tulsa offensive coordinator Guz Malzahn is two years removed from being a local hero as head coach at Springdale (Ark.) High School. From that small outpost, he was able to nationally market tapes of his spread offense. Success with that offense got him to Arkansas, where in his only season he helped land quarterback Mitch Mustain, arguably the biggest recruit in school history. In his first season at Tulsa, the humble Malzahn oversaw the first offense to produce a 5,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard receiver.
Auburn's Franklin developed his own lucrative consulting business. While at Kentucky he coached two future NFL quarterbacks (Tim Couch and Jared Lorenzen). Franklin would have been a fast riser but wrote a book detailing the inner workings of the Kentucky staff during the Hal Mumme era. From 2001-2005 Franklin was arguably black-listed, unable to find college work. In 2006 Troy coach Larry Blakeney hired Franklin, who then raised the Trojans' offense from near the bottom of the NCAA rankings to No. 16 in total offense in 2007.
"He and I had some things in common," Blakeney said. "He incurred some debt and I didn't have much money (to pay him). He's developed a way to move the football. It has worked at all levels."
While out of the game, Franklin created "The Tony Franklin System Seminar," a copyrighted offensive system implemented by at least 300 high schools nationwide. Given nine days to install his offense at Auburn before the bowl game, Franklin's "system" was able to produce 423 yards (in 90 plays) in a 23-20 victory over Clemson.
Pretty soon Tuberville noticed high school coaches descending upon the Tigers' offices looking for film, advice -- and Franklin.
"He's kind of a cult ...," Tuberville said of the overhaul of his offense, adding, "It's kind of a cult."
Since the beginning of 2007, Weis, Steve Spurrier and Mark Richt have given up all or part of their play-calling duties. In each case, the head coach wanted to concentrate on running the entire program. That means chances for future advancement for the next generation -- Notre Dame's Mike Haywood, South Carolina's Steve Spurrier Jr. and Georgia's Mike Bobo.
In terms of compensation, every coordinator should be praying to Norm Chow, the patron saint of the profession. UCLA's offensive coordinator is making at least $1 million this season, thanks in large part to the Tennessee Titans. They are picking up the difference in his UCLA contract after Chow was fired in January.
No matter who is paying his salary, Chow has earned it. In a 32-year college career that has also included stops at BYU, North Carolina State and Southern California, Chow has coached three Heisman winners and helped win three national championships. Before he left for the NFL three years ago, Chow was one of the highest-paid college assistants at USC.
And one of the highest regarded nationally.
"I don't know what it all means," said Steve Logan, the Boston College offensive coordinator entering his 29th year as a college coach. "I know that paying a guy a million a year sounds outrageous. But when you look at it from the standpoint that you're only going to be there three to five years and then most likely going to get fired. You have a short window."
It's not so much about money for Chow, it's about comfort level. He is less than 20 miles from his beachfront home, coaching against, instead of for, USC.
"The Trojan people have been courteous enough to know that, hey, come on. We're not trying to cure cancer here. It's fun," Chow said. "I lived for three years in a hotel back there (in Tennessee). It was real hard. The walls were starting to close in a little bit. Really, I was kind of looking forward to sitting out a year. Then Rick came along. He's a recruiter."
That would be Rick Neuheisel, who just made the USC-UCLA rivalry a little more interesting by hiring Chow and retaining defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker.
Neuheisel is trying to rebuild. The bosses at Florida State, Purdue and Kentucky are trying to reinvent. The coaches-in-waiting phenomenon is the next opportunity for the jock star coordinator. Fisher is taking over at FSU. Offensive coordinator Joker Phillips will succeed Rich Brooks at Kentucky. New associate head coach Danny Hope is taking over for Purdue's Joe Tiller after this season.
"Florida State is still one of the top jobs in the country," Fisher said. "It's going to take us a couple of years to get things ironed out. Two or three recruiting classes, I think we'll be up there." But what if today's solution is perceived to be part of the problem in the future? In Fisher's first season the offense actually finished worse in the NCAA rankings than the year before under the much-slammed Jeff Bowden.
"You can imagine if FSU goes 4-7, 4-7, 4-7," said one veteran coordinator. "If it does, it will be an interesting plan."
Failure, an interesting concept in this bull market. But isn't that why God created agents?