There has been a lot of interest recently in the amount money that college head football coaches, athletic directors and conference commissioners from major conferences are making these days. There is no doubt the salaries have gone up tremendously in the last 20 years.
I made a good salary when I was coaching at Auburn and I have got no complaints. Taking a specific looking at head football coaches, I am not sure everybody fully understands the nature of the job at a major college program and the demands involved.
From a business standpoint the responsibilities these men have are extensive. I don’t think what they do is much different than what the top business executives from around the country do, and those are people who are earning six-figures and even seven-figures in salaries depending on how big the company is.
Looking at the job assignment for a head football coach at a major program like Auburn, it is very demanding and you have to wear so many hats away from football. You have to help raise money. You have to speak to alumni groups. You have got to accommodate the news media. You have to work hand-in-hand with the university administration. You have to run a clean program and stay up-to-date with the ever-changing rules. You have to run the program with academic integrity.
All of those are things that a head coach must do, and do well, and we haven’t even gotten onto the field yet.
The head coach has the responsibilities of managing a staff that features a variety of personalities. A coaching staff is like a football team. It has its strengths and weaknesses with different personalities. It is a tremendous responsibility to make sure the group operates smoothly to give the team the best opportunity to win on Saturdays.
As a head coach you have to set the standard of what you are going to do and expect from your team offensively, defensively and in the kicking game with all of the strategy involved in the game of football.
On top of that, if you are going to be a really good coach and be paid the type of money these top coaches are getting paid, you have got to be able to walk in front of a football team and make a difference. That is the case whether you are getting ready to play a big game, start spring practice or whatever the occasion may be.
The successful head coaches are guys who can make a difference whether they are talking about the offseason program, academics or getting ready to play the archrival. When that coach speaks to his team, the players need to have total respect for that person and complete confidence in what their leader is telling them.
There are not many of those people out there in that top range category. Auburn is lucky to have one of those coaches with Gene Chizik directing the program. There are others around the country who may be making even more money, coaches that have proven themselves to be highly competent in what they are doing. While I don’t have any problems with the top coaches making top salaries, I do have a problem with contracts for coaches that have incentive clauses. I don’t like them at all.
I think the coaches should be paid their salaries, whatever they may be, and that is it. I really don’t think universities need to put incentive clauses in contracts.
If you have a coach with any kind of character flaw or weakness, it may create an atmosphere for the coach, one of his assistants, alumni or somebody else to break a rule. If a coach needs added incentive to do the best he can for his football players and his university, the university has hired the wrong guy.
I think they should pay them the same amount whether they finish last or first. If the coach doesn’t get the job done or perform the way he is expected to perform, then fire him and hire somebody else.
All the head coaching jobs in Southeastern Conference football, regardless of where you are, are filled with pressure to perform. Of course, they don’t expect you to win the conference championship at Vanderbilt, but you are expected to win the games you are supposed to win and some of them you are not supposed to win. At other places in the SEC the coach is expected to have a team that can compete for the conference championship every year and if it doesn’t the fans are going to be disgruntled. It is a high attrition profession because you have to win. The same thing goes for the assistant coaches.
People tell me that I got out of coaching too soon because the salaries have gone up so much in recent years, but that isn’t anything I worry about at all. When I was coaching I was probably in the Top 10 to Top 20 in salaries, somewhere in that area.
I didn’t get into coaching with the expectation of making a lot of money. I did it because it was something I loved to do. I doubt seriously there are very many coaches in the country who got into what they are doing to get rich. Some of them have worked themselves into that situation by the success they have had, but very few of them got into that reason.
Coaching is a calling. You love to compete. You love the relationships with the players and you love the excitement that surrounds the game whether it is in junior, high school, college or wherever it may be.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor’s Note: This part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn who was also head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming, Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns a week--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat’s Picks.
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