Thursday, December 18, 2014

$8 Million For A Coach?

TigerBlog will now compare two football coaches.

Coach A has won 63% of his games the last two seasons and has not won a championship.

Coach B has won 65% of his games the last two seasons and has won a championship.

Both coaches were on the offensive side of the ball as players.

Coach A's team has averaged 319.2 yards per game and 21.9 points per game since the start of the 2013 season.

Coach B's team has averaged 458.2 yards per game and 24.1 points per game since the start of the 2013 season.

So if Coach A is worth more than $8 million per year, how much must Coach B be worth?

Coach A is San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who apparently has been offered a six-year, $49 million contract to leave his current position and become the head coach at his alma mater, the University of Michigan.

Coach B is Princeton coach Bob Surace. TigerBlog has no idea how much Surace makes, but his sense is it's a bit less than $8 million per year.

So if Harbaugh gets his big payday, shouldn't Surace? TB will mention this to Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux next time he sees her and see what she thinks.

Meanwhile, back at Harbaugh, TigerBlog supposes the University of Michigan can do whatever it wants with its money. And clearly, even for a really strong state school like Michigan, a winning football team is a huge plus in terms of everything else that goes on there.

After all, ask any person about Michigan, and what's the first response you get going to be? The Big House, Michigan's football stadium, which seats nearly 110,000 fans.

Of course, the Wolverines went 5-7 this year and averaged "only" 104,909 fans.

It didn't help that head coach Brady Hoke completely mishandled a concussion to his quarterback and sounded like something from the 1980s or so when he said something along the lines of "he's a tough kid; he wanted to be out there."

And it didn't help that Hoke was 0-3 against Ohio State.

Maybe, maybe Hoke could have survived two of those three things. But all three? No way.

And so the Wolverines need a new coach, and why not Harbaugh?

TigerBlog wonders if there is some metric that can measure whether or not paying a coach that much is worth it to a school. Does having such a high-profile coach trickle down directly to wins and losses, annual giving, ticket sales, increased student applications, a higher baseline of academic success from those students?

Certainly the woods are full of high profile, highly paid coaches who didn't win.

And what exactly is Michigan buying with such a highly paid coach? Any guarantees? Is there another coach out there who doesn't the Harbaugh name, would work cheaply - say, $1 million a year? - and still be able to win at Michigan?

TigerBlog is always fascinated by this. There is a perception that school or pro teams have to throw truckloads of money at big-name coaches because they have some proven formula that guarantees wins. TB laughs at that. There are high school coaches out there who are better actual coaches than NFL coaches. Jim Harbaugh knows this.

The reality is that there are very few "super-coaches," ones who could go anywhere and win. Nick Saban wins big at Alabama? Gee, stunning. How about coaching the bottom team in the SEC and then winning there? That would impress TigerBlog.

What if Michigan could play in alternate universes, with Harbaugh as coach in one and Bob Surace as coach in the other. Suppose this could go on for five years. Would anyone bet that Harbaugh would automatically be more successful?

So what are you paying for? And what are you getting back?

One thing you get back is scorn from those at your university who aren't on board with the idea that the football coach makes 50-100 times what a good teacher makes. On the pro level, at least, TB does admit that the modern player probably wouldn't respect a coach who makes a fraction of what the players make.

TigerBlog has said this a billion times, but one of his favorite things about Princeton is that that dynamic does not exist here. The football coach, the basketball coach, no coach is bigger than the University itself.

The result is that you don't have a football coach or basketball coach who is so empowered as to feel above everything else that happens in the athletic department. Fortunately, Princeton has been blessed with coaches in those positions through the years who have understood just that.

The current group - Surace, Mitch Henderson, Courtney Banghart - certainly get it. More than that, they embrace it.

TigerBlog still wouldn't pay them $8 million a year though - or any coach, for that matter.

Especially in college.

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