Babb Bits: A Bargain At Twice The Price
Jim Tressel
Jim Tressel

Posted Dec 27, 2005


Some might think it's silly for any college football head coach to get paid over a million dollars a year, but Charles Babb thinks Jim Tressel is actually underpaid. He explains why in his latest edition of Babb Bits.

When is paying one of your employees a yearly salary of $1.5 million plus incentive bonuses a bargain?

When your head coach is Jim Tressel.

Take a gander around the college football world. These days his salary is paltry, a pittance of what athletic departments and alumni are willing to pay. It’s no longer a matter of wins and losses even, but rather balancing a budget. If the men’s football program is not bringing in revenue, athletic departments across the nation become black holes sucking all resources towards themselves.

However, if a football team can be among the elite in the nation, each home game alone can make millions for their cash strapped universities. Now multiply that figure by seven in a lean year and eight in a season with 12 games. Suddenly you see why Ohio State has been reaping the rewards of record football revenues.

Hired after the disastrous Outback Bowl debacle in January of 2001, Tressel’s approach to contract talks was a breath of fresh air. Instead of long negotiations handled by lawyers seeking to leverage astronomical cash out of the university possible, he quickly agreed to broad terms and allowed others to handle the details. It wasn’t a bank breaker of a deal, but it assured Tressel of a more than comfortable lifestyle. The university took initiative and put together a modified extension following his 14-0 campaign in 2002.

That was four years ago. $1.5 million dollars a year is no longer a figure commensurate with Tressel’s accomplishments. The fact of the matter is Jim Tressel is barely among the top 15 highest paid coaches in the nation, and were it not for the departures of Bill Snyder, Barry Alvarez, and Nick Saban, he would be at the bottom of the top 20 highest paid coaches in BCS conferences. That’s despite his taking Ohio State to three BCS Bowls in the past four seasons, winning two Big Ten titles and three bowls, and managing to claim the Buckeyes’ and Big Ten Conference’s first undisputed national title in the last four decades.

No coach walking the sidelines in NCAA Division I-A outside of Pete Carroll or Bob Stoops can match Tressel’s accomplishments since his last pay raise, but more than a few exceed his paychecks.

Coach

Salary Per Year in Millions

Victories Since 2002

Bowls

BCS Bowls

National Titles

Compensation Per Win

Jim Tressel

1.5

42

4 (3-0)

3

1

35,714

Kirk Ferentz

1.6

38

4 (2-1)

1

0

42,105

John L. Smith

1.5

25

2 (0-2)

0

0

60,000

Charlie Weis

3.0

36

1

1

0

83,333

Urban Meyer

2.0

37

1 (1-0)

1

0

54,054

Mike Shula

1.5

25

2 (0-1)

0

0

60,000

Phil Fulmer

2.0

33

3 (1-2)

0

0

60,606

Tommy Tubberville

2.0

39

4 (3-0)

1

Undefeated 2004

51,282

Jeff Tedford

1.5

33

3 (2-1)

0

0

45,455

Pete Carroll

3.0

48

4 (3-0)

4

2 (one shared)

62,500

Bill Callahan

1.5

24

1

0

0

62,500

Bob Stoops

2.4

43

4 (1-2)

3

0

55,814

Mack Brown

2.6

44

4 (2-1)

2

0

59,091

Dennis Franchione

2.0

26

1 (0-1)

0

0

76,923

Bobby Bowden

2.0

36

4 (1-2)

3

0

55,556

Frank Beamer

2.0

38

4 (1-2)

1

0

52,631

Larry Coker

1.9

41

4 (2-1)

2

0

46,341

Al Groh

1.7

31

4 (2-1)

0

0

54,838

Ralph Friedgen

1.5

31

2 (2-0)

0

0

48,387

*Salary figures for Joe Paterno and Lloyd Carr could not be found. It could be safely assumed they would be among the top earners.

**If the coach has not been a head coach for the past five seasons, the average number of wins was used to complete the data for salary per win.

Among the top performing coaches at a BCS conference school, Jim Tressel is dead last in compensation per win. Ohio State is paying him less than $40,000 per victory. In fact, he is the only coach on this list to have taken his team to multiple BCS bowls during the last four years earning less than $45,000 per win. Coker, coach of Miami of Florida, is the other, but there is some question as to whether he is in the same league as Tressel as a head coach. Meanwhile, assuming Charlie Weis is earning just $3,000,000 per year, he is paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $83,000 per victory and that number will drop to $75,000 only if he manages 40 wins over the next four seasons. Considering he might be long gone for the NFL in less than that amount of time, Notre Dame is paying through the nose.


Granted, this isn’t a scientific measurement. Granted, a Dan Hawkins or Gary Patterson would have probably been the best bargain out there with dollars per win, but neither was coaching in the big leagues. Granted, Georgia’s Mark Richt is being compensated even less than Jim Tressel (in the neighborhood of $34,000 per win), but his athletic department is currently under renegotiation in light of his accomplishments (44 wins, two SEC championships, two BCS bowls, and three bowl victories). Further, Richt can’t go to his trophy case and pull out five national championship rings like Tressel.


So what would be a fair figure for Jim Tressel to be earning?

Assuming a figure of $55,000 per victory based the salaries of his peers, Tressel’s current value on the open market would be right at $2.3 million dollars per season. Toss in the fun money others are earning for longevity, bowl bonuses, etc. and Tressel should be pulling down over $2.5 million per year.

Before anyone mounts their high horse an attempt to ride down these numbers as extravagant, we probably should ask, “Is this too much for a man to earn coaching college football?”

The answer is YES.

Yet the fact that college football is such big business isn’t the fault of coaches but rather a misplaced value system. The salaries of these coaches simply reflect the market. Well, most of them do – all of them except Richt and Tressel.

Tressel has arguably done more for the Big Ten conference and Ohio State than anyone since Woody Hayes. The coaching required to turn around a team headed the wrong direction in just two years is near wizardry. The extra BCS Bowls he has gained the schools have amounted to tens of millions of dollars in increased revenue, and his bowl victories have helped the conference repair a battered national reputation. In short, if the Ohio State administration won’t then perhaps the rest of the member schools should consider it for their own good.

In sum, it’s time to pay Tressel his due.

A few other bargain basement coaches deserving of a raise:

- Gary Patterson - TCU

- Mike Bellotti - Oregon

- Karl Dorrell - UCLA

- Greg Schiano – Rutgers

- June Jones – Hawaii

- Tom Amstutz – Toledo



Related Stories
Fiesta Bowl Data: Ohio State vs. Notre Dame
 -by BuckeyeSports.com  Dec 28, 2005
OSU Offense Could Have Edge Over ND Defense
 -by BuckeyeSports.com  Dec 27, 2005
OSU Defense Preps For Irish, Quinn
 -by BuckeyeSports.com  Dec 26, 2005

MAGAZINE COVERAGE
Subscribe today and get Buckeye Sports Bulletin, our team magazine absolutely free! So don’t wait ... Sign Up Today!
Sign Up Today!

Upgrade Now!
Free Email Newsletter
Don't miss any news or features from BuckeyeSports.com. Subscribe to our newsletter to have our newest articles emailed to you on a daily or weekly basis.
Click here for a list of all Team Newsletters.

Add Topics to My HotList
Get free email alerts with news about your favorite topics. Click link to add to My HotList.
Football > Ohio State
[View My HotList]