At some point in the near future, the NCAA may address growing staff sizes in college football.
Much of this has to do with the roles of off-field support members, who are unable to interact with the football players in a coaching manner. As staff sizes grow among FBS programs with large budgets compared to those with not as much money, a concern is emerging about the haves and the have-nots.
As one can imagine, this isn’t a topic many in the SEC wish to have changed. The same can likely be said about any program with a big budget that wishes to employ as many staffers as possible.
During a conference call in April, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who is also the chair of the NCAA Football Oversight Committee, said there is a program the NCAA believes has 97 staffers. Bowlsby didn’t single out the institution by name.
It is believed that Alabama is among the programs that employs the most staffers in the nation.
Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne did not reveal Alabama’s staff size number last week at the SEC’s spring meetings. But Byrne noted the football staff in place has helped the Crimson Tide become the national power it is.
“The structure at Alabama has really worked well for our program and for Coach Saban,” Byrne said. “I’m very respectful to that fact. You see it in the results. I think what’s important is that we have a seat at the table if there are discussions. It’s important to find that right balance. I’m extremely respectful to the fact we have a model that works well at Alabama and works well for Alabama to be competitive in the SEC, and nationally.”
Each NCAA institution is allowed nine on-field assistant coaches (which will soon be 10 beginning next January), five strength and conditioning coaches, and four graduate assistants to help a head coach on the field.
In recent years, programs have hired consultants, analysts and other creative personnel positions to serve in off-field roles. Georgia, for instance, brought in former Minnesota offensive coordinator Jay Johnson to be an offensive quality control assistant. Former Georgia center Fernando Velasco just announced his addition to the support staff as a player relations coordinator.
With Velasco’s addition and according to information from the program’s website, Georgia employs 28 support staffers who are not graduate assistants or assisting with the strength and conditioning program.
Georgia’s athletics budget, which will be $127.5 million in its fiscal year 2018, allows for the flexibility of support staff hires such as these. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart seemed wary that the NCAA could arbitrarily cap the number of support staffers per program.
“I think it’s hard to pick a number,” Smart said. “I think that’s why we’re all talking about it. It’s no different than, ‘Are there four teams in the playoff? Six teams? Eight teams?’ So where does that number go?”
And that’s a shared viewpoint around the SEC.
Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason said, “Nobody’s cheating in this conference” in reference to the perception that support staff sizes have become too bloated in the SEC.
Auburn head coach Guz Malzahn said each individual school should decide how many support staffers it would like to hire. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey acknowledged the discussion taking place at the NCAA level and said it “doesn’t necessarily contemplate a numbers dialogue as a solution.”
Smart believes it is tough for a coaching staff comprised of 19 on-field members to be responsible for well over 100 players. That’s why Smart believes it would be tough to cap support staffs.
“I certainly think when you look at the player-to-staff ratio, football is usually the most under,” Smart said. “You have 130 guys. It’s hard to manage 130 guys when you’re talking about class, off-field, behavioral issues, everything. We need the support we have. Picking a number on that, I think that’s tough.”