Jan. 25, 2005
By Dennis Dodd
SportsLine.com Senior Writer
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Good news for all of us mere mortals worried about next month's mortgage payment ...

The $3 million per year threshold for top college football coaches is about to be crossed. Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione admitted at the Orange Bowl that Bob Stoops would have almost reached that mark had the Sooners won the national championship.


Bob Stoops isn't having much trouble feeding his family. (Getty Images)
Stoops would have made approximately $2.66 million with the addition of incentive bonuses with an Oklahoma win. The Sooners got blown out, but the point is that $3 million per year isn't far away. Currently, there are at least nine I-A coaches making more than $2 million per year. An estimated 35 make at least $1 million.

Nick Saban left LSU making an average of $2.6 million per year. Either Texas' Mack Brown (new 10-year, $26 million contract) or Stoops is believed to be the game's highest-paid coach. Stoops made approximately $2.51 million in 2004 after incentives.

This at a time when NCAA president Myles Brand is preaching financial restraint. The problem is any talk of financial reform is hit by double roadblocks. The NCAA is limited legally by what it can do to curb spending. Second, more and more athletic departments have become separate "corporations" responsible for their own budget and profit.

Try telling any corporation it has to limit salaries and expenditures in a competitive market. The hamster long ago hit the treadmill. You've got to win to keep producing revenue. In order to win, you've got to pay top dollar to coaches.

"The economic model for college athletics has to be one of the worst on record ..." said Castiglione. "None of us like it but it's part of the (landscape). Let's face it, we are the NCAA. If we don't like it, we're the ones responsible for coming up with a different plan. We have to quit complaining about this model and give ourselves a chance to survive."

That comes from an administrator at the top of his game. Castiglione helped lead a $100 million capital campaign that improved Oklahoma's facilities. But a lot of that money came from the momentum generated by the 2000 national championship and subsequent Big 12 titles and championship games.

Even then, there's always another school around the corner willing to do more.

"Because of the antitrust laws, the NCAA is very constrained in the way it can actually limit the way of expenditures," said Robert Hemenway, the Kansas chancellor and chairman of the NCAA board of directors.

It has only been 10 years since Florida's Steve Spurrier was the first to break the $1 million (per season) barrier. It was 23 years ago that some were outraged when Texas A&M's Jackie Sherrill became the first coach to sign a million-dollar contract. Not per year -- the total package. Sherrill's original deal was six years for $1.722 million ($287,000 average per season).

After a failed shot at the NFL, Spurrier took $1.5 million to return to college at South Carolina. He designated that $250,000 of that be given to his assistants.

Stoops gets an automatic $100,000 every Jan. 1. If Oklahoma reaches the promised land of a national championship the bonuses could total $350,000-$400,000. That's the going rate of keeping a top coach at a top program.

"We're not cavalier about it, but you've got to pull your head out of the sand," Castiglione said. "The marketplace is changing at an even more rapid rate than people want to admit. The chance for moderation is close because the revenues are starting to flatten out."

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Administrators agree that the spending won't slow down until television revenues drop. The new BCS contract that starts in 2006 basically guarantee the same money, although it will be stretched further with the addition of a fifth BCS bowl.

The Oklahomas of the world have long argued that each school should run its athletic department as it sees fit. Those that can step up, will. The others will fall behind.

"You do the best you can with what you have," Castiglione said. "That's the way it's been. If you do it right, people have a chance to break through now and then. There is such an insatiable appetite for having the best program year in and year out."

What isn't going to happen, Hemenway said, is any backsliding in order to get in the black. That's code for no playoff.

"There is a free market out there," Hemenway said. "What happens in all markets is when the market can't sustain itself, it implodes.

"The thing we have to focus on is what are the values of intercollegiate athletics? What's the value of amateurism? We'll let that free market operate, but we're not going to compromise any of those values. We're not going to go to play-for-pay. That would be a denial of amateurism."


Recruiting chat
The surprise of the recruiting season might be Nebraska.

The Cornhuskers, having missed a bowl for the first time in 36 years, have bounced back quickly with a class that is generally rated in the top five nationally.

Coach Bill Callahan was known as a good recruiter when he came in. He scrambled in 2004 to land a serviceable class. That was forgotten when the Huskers stumbled to a 5-6 record.

Callahan has recruited approximately 10 junior-college players to get help right away. Half of those already have signed letters of intent, including Zac Taylor, a three-star quarterback from Butler County (Kan.) Community College.

After the disaster that was Joe Dailey, quarterback obviously is a concern. Callahan held onto a commitment from four-star prospect Harrison Beck, a pro-style quarterback from Clearwater, Fla. ...

No matter what else happens from now until kickoff, Joe Paterno gets credit for snagging the nation's No. 1 player, receiver Derrick Williams from Greenbelt, Md.

JoePa aggressively recruited Williams from the beginning and beat out the likes of Florida, Oklahoma and Texas. If recruiting is an indicator, it's like old times at Penn State.

With Pittsburgh defensive back Justin King also committed, Penn State has more five-star recruits (two) than Tennessee, Oklahoma, Michigan, Ohio State, Miami, Auburn or Texas.

That means Joe seems to have landed a solid top 25 class. The kids obviously believe Paterno is going to be around for their senior years. JoePa has the contract to prove it too. ...

Virginia Tech isn't the throw-in in the ACC expansion it was supposed to be. First, the Hokies got the league's BCS bid in its first year in the conference. Frank Beamer has followed it up with a solid recruiting class that right now is rated ahead of Maryland, Virginia, Clemson and Florida State.

Now that it is in the ACC, Tech is heavily into the Carolinas able to sell its message to those states' top players. It was a mild surprise that tight end Jonathan Hannah of Hope Mills, S.C., went with the Hokies. ...

It's official now that the Patriots are in the Super Bowl again: New Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis won't start full time until Feb. 7, the day after the big game. Without a sitting coach, the Irish have assembled what is generally considered a top 30 class.

The Notre Dame staff did come hard on Akron, Ohio, defensive end Travis Wilson, who questioned the Irish when Tyrone Willingham was fired. Seven Irish assistants reportedly showed up at Wilson's house at the same time recently to show the program's commitment.

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Notre Dame officials aren't sure how the announcement of the signings will be handled on Feb. 2. Weis might be on a phone hook-up from Jacksonville. ...

Washington fans are griping over the sleepy recruiting results under Tyrone Willingham so far. Rivals.com had U-Dub at only nine commitments as of Tuesday and ranked the class 89th in the country. ...


Slick courts
Rick Neuheisel ended up where a lot of us said he would when he tripped over the NCAA's gambling taboo. That is, not in college.

Neuheisel recently found work as quarterback coach with the Baltimore Ravens. Nineteen months after the whole affair at Washington started, college football still won't have anything to do with him. Not Division III, not Division II, not Division I-AA, not even NAIA.

That speaks volumes about a sport that has welcomed back the likes of Mike Price and Hal Mumme. Fans and administrators can forgive a lot of things. Gambling and arrogance aren't two of them.

The former Washington coach's breach of contract suit begins this week. Neuheisel is trying to get $2.1 million he says is remaining on his contract after he was fired, as well as punitive damages. Washington has contersued to recover a $1.5 million loan it injected in Neuheisel's final contract.

He is also suing the NCAA over its investigative procedures that eventually cost him his job. Opening statements probably won't be heard until Jan. 31. The trail could last three to five weeks.

Will Neuheisel ever coach in college again? Suing a former employer and its governing body is not a good way to answer that question. Remember, the only reason the NCAA didn't find Neuheisel guilty of lying to investigators is that, in the same day, he finally admitted to participating in an NCAA Tournament pool. That is, after denying it twice.

Becoming an NFL assistant might be his only avenue back to head coaching. But the league has only 30 openings with scores more qualified candidates with more experience in front of him.

If a college touches him again, it will take years for his reputation to be healed. Or at least ignored.


Quick hits

Bet you didn't know ... Miami's much-maligned Brock Berlin led the ACC in total offense (218.9 yards per game).
Or that the ACC was the only I-A conference that didn't have a rusher average 100 yards rushing per game (over a full season).
Or that Virginia finished tied for third in the standings but led the ACC with five first-team all-conference picks.
Rice coach Ken Hatfield is considering installing a form of Utah's spread option offense. Makes sense since the Owls led the nation in rushing (360 yards) but were dead last in passing (75.3 yards).
Michigan is planning a $150 million-$200 million project to add luxury suites and restrooms. The renovation might mean the loss of 4,000 seats from the largest stadium in the nation (107,501). A loss of 220 seats would allow Tennessee (107,282 seats) to regain that title.
Good to see Temple stay at Division I-A. A school task force made the announcement last week. The program deserved better after its crass treatment by the Big East. (What was the difference between Rutgers and Temple?) The MAC is reportedly interested in admitting the Owls in football only as soon as 2006.