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Canzano: A dive on the cost of winning football
What does a victory cost in the Pac-12?
You know the cost of gasoline and a gallon of milk. But I’ve been thinking about the expenses associated with winning football games in the Pac-12 Conference.
Athletic department expenditures typically include things such as support staff, assistant coaches, meals, travel, recruiting, equipment and other line items.
Oregon spent about $2 million in the fiscal year 2021 on “uniforms, equipment and supplies” for example. UCLA spent more than $5 million on “non-travel meals” in 2019. And Washington State’s athletic department budgeted $200,000 for “spirit groups” this year.
I’m digging around the budgets. I’ll publish more on that front in the coming weeks. But today I took a look at one of the largest expenses in every major athletic department — the head football coach’s base salary.
Here are the “school pay” figures for the Pac-12 head football coaches (ranked most to least):
USC (Lincoln Riley) — $10 million
Stanford (David Shaw) — $6.6 million
Utah (Kyle Whittingham) — $6 million
UCLA (Chip Kelly) — $5.6 million
Oregon (Dan Lanning) — $4.7 million
Cal (Justin Wilcox) — $4.2 million
ASU (Herm Edwards) — $4.1 million
Oregon State (Jonathan Smith) — $3.75 million
Colorado (Karl Dorrell) — $3.6 million
Washington (Kalen DeBoer) — $3.1 million
Washington State (Jake Dickert) — $2.7 million
Arizona (Jedd Fisch) — $2.3 million
Shaw and Riley work for private schools. Their salary figures are based on published news reports. ASU and Colorado fired their coaches midseason, but still had to pay. So it counts. But seeing the numbers got me thinking about the cost of winning.
Here’s what each Pac-12 school paid the head coach “per victory” this season not including bonuses or other sources of income (ranked most to least):
Colorado: $3.6 million per win
Stanford: $2.2 million
ASU: $1.37 million
Cal: $1.05 million
Oregon State: $416,667
Washington State: $385,714
Washington athletic director Jennifer Cohen should take a bow. She got more value from her head football coach this season than anyone in the conference. Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith and Oregon’s Dan Lanning both won nine regular-season games. They look like solid investments, too. So does Jake Dickert (seven victories) at Washington State.
It’s not surprising that the three “leading” schools in cost-per-win — ASU, Stanford and Colorado — will all have new head football coaches next season. The coach sitting at No. 4, Cal’s Justin Wilcox, is faced with replacing his offensive coordinator.
Cohen already rewarded DeBoer with a $1 million raise for next season. Even if we hypothetically made his raise retroactive, the Huskies would still only be paying him $410,000 per victory in base salary. That’s how good the DeBoer hire was for UW.
A question: What do we do with USC?
The Trojans won 11 regular-season games. They’ll play Utah for the conference title game on Friday in Las Vegas. But USC invested more than $900,000 per win in its head coach to this point. We’re only a dozen games into his tenure, but it’s hard to argue that Riley wasn’t a terrific investment. Especially since we know winning regular-season games wasn’t what Trojans athletic director Mike Bohn was thinking when he snatched the coach away from Oklahoma.
“It sends a loud and powerful message to the college football world that this sleeping giant is wide awake,” Bohn crowed at Riley’s introductory news conference.
The college football “world”?
Well, Bohn said it. So I examined Alabama, Clemson and Georgia, too. Entering this season, those were the top three schools in terms of base pay for the head football coach.
School salary, ranked most to least:
Alabama (Nick Saban): $10.7 million
Clemson (Dabo Swinney): $10.5 million
Georgia (Kirby Smart): $10.3 million
USC (Lincoln Riley): $10 million
Cost per win, ranked most to least:
Alabama: $1.07 million per win
Clemson: $1.05 million
USC’s investment is in line with the perennial power programs that chase national titles. The Trojans are focused on making the College Football Playoff. Getting one of those four coveted playoff invitations would be worth millions more for USC in branding, gift giving, sponsorships, not to mention the actual playoff payout.
That brings us to what’s at stake in Las Vegas for Friday’s championship game. If USC wins, Riley’s hire looks even better. If Utah wins, they’ll advance to the Rose Bowl and likely play vs. Ohio State. Whittingham’s cost-per-victory if he can win two more football games this season?
A thrifty $545,454 a pop.
It’s not gallon of milk or gasoline. But now you know it, too.
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