Reaction to Pac-12 developments on and off the field …
And because the news is relentless: We published an article this morning on the Pac-12 bringing back furloughed workers, the scheduling options for Week Seven, basketball plans and Larry Scott’s latest letter to the office staff.
1. Mario Cristobal needs a raise. Yesterday.
Actually, Cristobal needed it last winter, but the pandemic hit.
He’s the defending conference champion but will earn about half as much in 2020 as the coach he beat for the Pac-12 title, Utah’s Kyle Whittingham.
That’s one of many takeaways from our perusal of USA Today’s coaching salary database, one of the most important works of journalism in college athletics each year.
(The package of content published this week includes a look at pandemic-related salary reductions for head coaches — and how they aren’t necessarily what they seem.)
Schools are taking a variety of approaches to mitigating the budget damage to from Covid. Some have asked coaches and athletic directors to take pay cuts, and some have not.
For that reason, the figures used below will reflect what USA Today calls ‘scheduled school pay,’ or the contractual obligation to the head coach had there been no pandemic.
Cristobal was scheduled to earn $2.7 million this year. That’s a long way from the top-paid coach in the conference, Whittingham, who would have received $5 million without Covid reductions.
The following coaches also will earn more than Cristobal:
Stanford’s David Shaw, USC’s Clay Helton, UCLA’s Chip Kelly, ASU’s Herm Edwards, Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin, Cal’s Justin Wilcox, Colorado’s Karl Dorrell, Washington’s Jimmy Lake and Washington State’s Nick Rolovich.
That would be all of them, except Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith.
Even the head coach who hasn’t been a head coach, Lake.
Even the head coach who hasn’t been a head coach in 13 years, Dorrell.
In fact, Cristobal’s 2020 scheduled pay is 57th in the country, just ahead of Maryland’s Mike Locksley and Kansas State’s Chris Klieman.
Our strong suspicion is that Cristobal will receive a new contract as soon as the budget crisis ends — one that makes him the highest-paid coach in the conference.
(He reportedly was on track for a new contract before the pandemic arrived.)
We can only assume the extension will be structured in a manner that compensates Cristobal for the raise he didn’t get this season.
Regardless, at $2.7 million for the current season, he’s one of the best bargains in the country.
2. Which Pac-12 coaches are overpaid?
That easy: All of them … and none of them.
They’re all overpaid because an institution of higher learning should not be spending millions of dollars a year on its football coach.
Then again, the marketplace dictates compensation figures. The coaches are worth whatever the schools are willing to pay.
Get what you can get and good on you for getting it.
If we happened to scan the USA Today database and circle the “scheduled school pay” for Pac-12 coaches in 2020, then compare the dollars to on-field performance the past two seasons, this is what we’d find …
(Figures from Shaw and Helton are based on total pay, not school pay.)
Oregon’s Mario Cristobal2020 salary: $2.7 millionTwo-year win total: 21Dollars per win: $129,000
Cal’s Justin Wilcox2020 salary: $3.35Two-year win total: 15Dollars per win: $223,000
ASU’s Herm Edwards2020 salary: $3.5 millionTwo-year win total: 15Dollars per win: $233,000
Utah’s Kyle Whittingham2020 salary: $5 millionTwo-year win total: 20Dollars per win: $250,000
Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith2020 salary: $2.4 millionTwo-year win total: 7Dollars per win: $343,000
Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin2020 salary: $3.1 millionTwo-year win total: 9Dollars per win: $344,000
USC’s Clay Helton2020 salary: $4.6 millionTwo-year win total: 13Dollars per win: $354,000
Stanford’s David Shaw2020 salary: $4.8 millionTwo-year win total: 13Dollars per win: $369,000
UCLA’s Chip Kelly2020 salary: $4.3 millionTwo-year win total: 7Dollars per win: $614,000
3. How they compare …
Whittingham is the top-paid coach in the conference in scheduled pay, but he’s only No. 20 in the country.
All in all, the Pac-12 has four coaches earning at least $4 million this season: Whittingham, Shaw, Helton and Kelly.
The SEC has 10 over the $4 million mark.
The Big Ten has 11.
Remember Mel Tucker, who spent one year at Colorado — one bowl-less year — and then fled for big bucks at Michigan State?
Tucker will earn $5.06 million in East Lansing, more than any coach in the Pac-12.
And how’s this: Pac-12 head coaches are under contract to earn a collective $43 million this season (excluding pay cuts).
That’s $2 million less than the combined total of the top-six coaches in the SEC: Alabama’s Nick Saban, LSU’s Ed Orgeron, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, Georgia’s Kirby Smart and Florida’s Dan Mullen.
You can have loads of fun with the data — just click on a coach or team in the database to get historical data — but the most telling figures will be published by USAT later this fall:
The salary pool for assistant coaches.
That’s where the disparity in resources is most pronounced.
4. What if … USC hadn’t published the letter.
Earlier this week, the Hotline published the results of our investigation into one of the most important stretches in conference history …
Two weeks that began with the deal to acquire antigen tests (Sept. 3) and ended with California and Oregon officials agreeing to lift cohort restrictions and allow teams to practice (Sept. 16) …
Two weeks that provided the foundation for the Pac-12’s return in the fall of 2020 …
Two weeks that prevented the conference from getting left behind.
Our investigation, based largely on internal emails obtained through a public records request, showed that the USC players’ public appeal to Gavin Newsom, published Sept. 15, was vital to the process.
And if you piece together the subsequent events, it’s not difficult to conclude the conference might not have played football this fall without that letter.
On the afternoon of Sept. 14 — that’s 11 days after the announcement of the antigen testing deal — the Pac-12’s chief of staff, Erik Hardenbergh, sent an email to officials from the four California campuses.
The note followed Hardenbergh’s meeting with a key advisor to Gov. Gavin Newsom and explained that “We are starting in the right place” but that “Even with fast tracking, this could take some time.”
The next day, a Tuesday, USC players published their letter.
After the letter made headlines, the Pac-12 arranged a meeting between commissioner Larry Scott and Newsom for the following morning.
By the end of the day Wednesday — 24 hours after the USC letter — Newsom had given clearance for restrictions to be amended.
Two days later, on Friday, Sept. 18, the Pac-12 CEOs began the week-long process of approving a return-to-play.
If there is no USC letter … if Newsom isn’t put on the defensive … if he doesn’t back away publicly … then the conference is left to depend entirely on:
1) Incremental, behind-the-scenes bureaucracy to change the cohort restrictions
2) Using the Big Ten’s return to put pressure on state officials
Based on Hardenbergh’s email — “Even with fast tracking, this could take some time” — it seems fair to assume the process would have extended well into the following week.
And pushed the start of the CEO-level discussions into the final week of September.
Using the timeframe that just unfolded — two weeks from the time of the CEO vote to the start of full-contact practices — then training camp wouldn’t have started until the middle of October, at the earliest, without the USC letter.
Under a best-case scenario (i.e., California officials moving faster than a tortoise) the regular season would begin on Nov. 14, with only enough time for five division games, plus a championship.
At that point, would the conference have even bothered?
Probably, because of the repercussions that would come with not bothering.
But the lack of crossover games in that scenario would have made the schedule feel dramatically smaller than it does even now.
5. Back-of-the-envelope TV money math.
We haven’t seen an answer, anywhere, to a critical question:
How much of its Tier 1 media revenue will the Pac-12 recoup with the shortened season?
Allow us to take a swing …
According to the term sheet, ESPN and Fox would have owed the conference $276 million this year in return for 45 football games, including the championship, and about 70 basketball games.
Rule of thumb when assessing the value of media rights deal: Football is worth 90 cents of every dollar; the rest is men’s basketball.
Using that as our guide, the football inventory would account for $248 million of the $276 million this year.
Divide that by 45 games — we’ll treat each the same, even though the conference championship has greater value — and we’re left with the following:
Each Pac-12 football game is worth $5.5 million.
There are at least 37 scheduled for this season. (Six games per week for six weeks, plus the championship.)
Multiple 37 games times $5.5 million per game, and that’s $203 million out of the estimated $248 million.
Hardly ideal, but it could have been much, much worse.
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Author: Jon Wilner