Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

December 17, 2013

Highly paid coaches are the cost of big money college football

So, after a week of rumors, Nick Saban is staying at the University of Alabama as its football coach. No surprise there. And the likable but embattled Mack Brown is out at Texas. Again, no surprise, but the parting was unnecessarily messy.

Saban was given a new, long-term contract that extends his employment in Tuscaloosa at a pay scale of about $7 million a year, perhaps a little more. Brown will have to get by on $500,000 annually, but he won’t have any pressing duties except to show up at some cocktail parties and make rich donors feel important.

There'll be no recruiting, game planning or frequent interviews on The Longhorn Network for Brown. Not a bad gig. The coaching and its pressures will be left to someone else, who will get a staggering financial package like the one Saban’s agent engineered.

What’s one to make of skyrocketing coaching salaries? Break down Saban’s salary and it works out to about $600,000 a game. That seems like a bit much if the opponent is Georgia State. Then again, Alabama Chancellor Robert Witt can look around Bryant-Denny Stadium on game day, see nearly 102,000 seats filled and describe Saban as “the best financial investment the university has ever made.”

It's hard to argue with that. Alabama's return on investment - three national championships under Saban - has been quite handsome.

Those who think Saban is overpaid should consider the Seattle Mariners' recent deal with infielder Robinson Cano for $240 million over 10 years. Does anyone think Cano is three times more valuable than Saban? Hardly.

What’s fair, what’s reasonable and what’s sensible, have become unanswerable questions.

Meanwhile, Brown and others at the top of the coaching game know that what can be given can also be taken away.

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