No wonder so many university presidents and athletic directors have been so quick to drive a Brinks truck to their head football coach’s doorstep if he so much as makes the Alamo Bowl.
They are charitable souls, visionaries who understand that the coach could be one 5-6 season away from taking his meals at soup kitchens and bothering passers-by for spare change on street corners.
College football coaches have it rough these days. It’s tough to make ends meet on $2 million per year. Remember when $1 million represented a mind-blowing salary for a head football coach? There were only five head coaches in that tax bracket in 1999, but at least 42 reside there now.
By Division I standards, the $1 million men might as well be working the drive-thru at a fast food restaurant because their paychecks reflect the new minimum wage.
Naturally, some snooty academics will claim that it’s an egregious waste for Alabama to pay head coach Nick Saban $32 million over eight years or for LSU to shell out a combined $800,000 annually for offensive coordinator Gary Crowton and defensive coordinator Bo Pelini. They’ll pontificate about the misplaced priorities that exist when Saban and Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville stand to make a combined $6.6 million next season in a state that habitually brings up the rear when it comes to expenditures on higher education.
But these self-righteous professors, with their doctorates, Nobel Prizes and Phi Beta Kappa keys, should try stepping into the Gucci loafers of a Southeastern Conference football coach for a day to learn what it’s really like to try to live on a coach’s salary these days:
After awakening from his slumber in the middle of a king-size bed festooned with 1,000 thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, the typical Bowl Championship Series conference coach showers, puts on the day’s Under Armour outfit provided by his apparel endorsement deal and carries his financial burdens with him to the breakfast table.
It’s the offseason, so he’ll indulge a little. Fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and maybe a Western omelette made with organic ingredients by the personal chef provided for in his contract.
Then it’s time to leave the 7-bedroom, 6-bath, 8,000-square foot hovel that he purchased with the help of a low-interest home loan from the bank owned by the president of the booster club. With any luck, the pool and landscaping people provided by a Friend of the Program will have cleared out by the time he gets home.
He’ll get behind the wheel of his dealer-provided Cadillac SUV and wonder how he can possibly afford to fill the tank when gas costs $3 per gallon and his contract only specifies a fuel allowance of $6,000 per year. It’s enough to melt his university-issued Platinum card.
By the time he’s completed those mental calculations, he’s driving through the gates of the local country club that awarded him a complimentary membership when he signed his first contract.
He heads to the first tee with a bag of sparkling new Callaway clubs over his shoulder, courtesy of the sporting goods supplier who traded merchandise for 50-yard line tickets. Besides, he couldn’t let coach humiliate himself by using those 10-year-old TaylorMades that he brought along the first time he played in the university’s scholarship scramble.
After playing nine holes, it’s time for lunch. But coach’s money isn’t any good at the steakhouse that he chose. After seeing the coach’s haggard appearance and realizing he probably couldn’t have had more than $500 in his crocodile skin wallet at that very moment, the restaurant owner insists that the rib-eye and baked potato are on the house. Just so long as coach poses for a picture that he can hang on the wall behind the cash register.
Now he’s back in the SUV and off to pick up the kids from school. Tuition normally runs $20,000 per tot at Our Lady of the Toss Sweep Preparatory Academy. But the board of directors, obviously aware that $1.5 million per year isn’t quite Urban Meyer money, cut a 2-for-1 deal as long as coach agreed to speak at the school’s football banquet.
On the way home, he calls his agent with one of his frequent complaints. He heard that Oregon coach Mike Bellotti’s contract includes a clause that gives him a cut of the university’s ticket revenue.
‘‘Why can’t I get a deal like that?’’ the coach wonders. ‘‘That’s the difference between a month-long trip to Fiji and having to schlep the family to Vail on that trustee’s jet for our two-week ski vacation.’’
‘‘Could be worse,’’ the agent tells him. ‘‘At least you have a good conduct clause in your contract. None of your players have been arrested in the last year and you haven’t worn a lampshade on your head at any cocktail parties lately. That’s another $50,000 coming your way.’’
And with that, another college football coach narrowly averts financial ruin.
There’s no need for him to sell a kidney on eBay. His kids can get braces and his wife can continue her Botox treatments.