Just this week Kentucky named a new men’s basketball coach in John Calipari to a new record contract, making him the highest paid coach in college basketball.
Calipari’s predecessor, Billy Gillispie, was ousted after two years and his biggest highlight while with the Wildcats was his major delay in ever signing his contract with Kentucky, which hurt his pockets in the end.
That situation reminded me that it has been months since Central Michigan football coach Butch Jones signed his most recent contract extension, yet to this day, the financial terms of the extension haven’t been determined.
Clearly the university has had plenty to deal with as of late, most notably having its president, Michael Rao, depart for Virginia Commonwealth.
While it may not seem like a big issue to some, as Jones is under contract for a number of years at CMU, the financial agreement is a big deal in the sense of it gives us an idea of CMU’s commitment level to Jones and his staff.
With all of the coaching changes that took place in the last two seasons, Jones has quickly found himself as one of the lowest paid coaches in the Mid-American Conference in terms of guaranteed money.
Jones is third from the bottom at $290,000. Temple’s Al Golden was at the top of the list at $575,000 until the end of the 2008 season, when Buffalo gave Turner Gill a new contract, making him the highest paid coach in the MAC following his conference championship win.
Now $290,000 is certainly no small peanuts, especially in this economic state, but Jones’ status on the MAC coaching totem pole is a sign of what is ahead for CMU in one way or the other.
Just like when Jones first arrived at CMU and started with a higher base salary than Brian Kelly had as he departed, with each new hire, the salary bar is getting raised higher and higher in the MAC, and it is only fair to think that Jones and his staff want to be compensated with the averages of the conference, especially since they have a MAC championship under their belt.
Ball State University is a perfect example of being a victim of growing trends.
Just this past season the Cardinals rolled to a 12-0 regular season, garnered a national ranking, and won the MAC championship. Ball State’s coach, Brady Hoke, opted to leave Ball State after the season for San Diego State, which is a lateral move at best in terms of football talent.
But, Hoke was able to more than triple his base salary with the move and the Cardinals were left to make a new hire in offensive coordinator Stan Parrish, who in turn received a contract where his guaranteed money was larger than that of what Hoke made when he left.
With each new coaching hire also comes new commitments from the administration. Whether it be upgrades in facilities, more money to the program, scheduling control, or higher pay for assistants, each university is backed into the corner to play catch up with the rest of the conference if they want to hire a coach that can compete on a year-to-year basis.
This takes us back to Butch Jones.
While this financial agreement may not be a make-or-break situation for Jones and CMU right now, soon a crossroads will hit if Jones continues to be one of the lowest paid coaches, and the Chippewas will have to ask themselves:
Do we make a commitment to Jones and increase the pay for he and his staff and look to make upgrades to the program to stay on level with the rest of the conference, or do we fork over the money and the promises to a new and unproven coach?
I don’t think the MAC has to be the stop gap for college coaches like it has become. Schools like Temple, Buffalo, and Toledo have shown they are willing to do what it takes to keep their coaches around and well compensated. Many of the MAC schools are continually looking to upgrade facilities and provide new perks to their football programs.
I know the CMU athletics budget isn’t where many would like to see it and it has handcuffed many programs, but with the inevitable arrival of a new president, hopefully this issue is addressed so CMU athletic programs can continue to compete on the national level.
For right now, we will see how Jones’ contract plays out and if he will be one of the highest paid coaches in the MAC.
Labels: Butch Jones, CMU football