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Nuggets of Gold
Friday, July 27, 2007
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By Adam Gold
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Adam Gold is program director of the Triangle's "850 the Buzz" and host of "The G-spot with Adam Gold" on weekdays from 3-7 p.m.

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ECU pays price for Florida's success

Bull market for blue-chip coaches ripples across the ranks

By Adam Gold
©2007 Bonesville.net
All rights reserved.

Itís been a great 18 months for the Florida Gators. The menís basketball team has become the king of the basketball world, winning the last two NCAA Tournaments, while in between the football program leveled Ohio State to capture the schoolís first national title since the days of Steve Spurrier.

As a result, the rest of the country is going to pay the price.

The cost of doing business in the world of coaching just went up Ė waaaaaaaay up.

Floridaís Director of Athletics, Jeremy Foley, had to act fast to keep his basketball coach in Gainesville after back-to-back years of cutting down the nets and he handed Billy Donovan a six-year contract worth $3.5 million annually.

Four months earlier, Urban Meyerís team whipped the heavily-favored Buckeyes on the gridiron and he, too, was due a modest increase in salary.

Well, ďmodestĒ might not be the correct word. Meyerís annual salary rose from $2 million (already among the highest in the nation) to $3.2 million.

If that scares you, understand that Meyer is not even the highest paid football coach in his own conference! Nick Saban skipped out on the NFLís Miami Dolphins to take $4 million a year worth of Alabamaís money. Sort of makes you wonder if the Crimson Tide will have anything left over to buy players.

I kid, I kid.

What is happening to the salary structure of college coaching? Now, you say this doesnít impact Conference USA, because itís not a BCS league and there are limitations to how much the East Carolinas and Houstons of the world can pay coaches ó even in the only serious revenue-generating sport at their respective universities.

But, the bottom line is that coaches follow the money and if the worst school in a bigger league comes calling with more cash, itís likely that a Skip Holtz or a George OíLeary is packing up his office and backing up the moving vans.

There used to be just a handful of coaches in the country making over a million dollars. Now almost every coach in the ACC is paid in the seven-figure neighborhood.

The bidding war for difference makers goes way beyond just the head coaches. Schools, especially those in the BCS conferences, have learned the value of top assistants and itís become increasingly common to see not only much larger salaries, but multi-year guarantees. In many cases, these aides earn more than head coaches at schools in non-BCS leagues.

ECU Director of Athletics Terry Holland, is a very smart man. He knows the lay of the land and, after last seasonís 7-5 finish gave the Pirates their first winning season and subsequent bowl berth in five years, he knew that he was going to have to come up with more money to keep head coach Skip Holtz off the market.

Ultimately, the payout to Holtz is going to be roughly a million dollars per year, slightly higher should he stay in Greenville through the 2011 season. But, if the program continues to improve, thereís just no chance that Holland will be able to keep his coach because the price of success is skyrocketing.

Iíll let you in on a little secret. The University of Florida, for instance, brought in more than $80 million in athletic department revenue last year. The Gators more than paid for Billy Donovanís $3.5 million contract just by selling basketball tickets. In fact, the school grossed close to $5 million from ticket sales and booster fees alone. At many schools you have to make a minimum donation just for the rights to purchase season tickets.

And gang, thatís just basketball! The big football factories make a whole lot more money on the gridiron than they do on the basketball court. Do you think ECU can squeeze $5 million out of its fans for the menís basketball team?

Heck, the University of Minnesota, no more than an occasional player in the NCAA Tournament and a second division team in the Big Ten, saw fit to throw $1.8 million of guaranteed money at Tubby Smith. So, how can we expect smaller schools, with fewer revenue streams, fewer donors, and far less exposure to compete?

Back to Florida football for a second: The salaries of Urban Meyer and his entire coaching staff are recouped after just four of the Gators' seven home games are played. And that doesnít take into account the schoolís take of the SEC's TV contract, bowl revenue, merchandising, shoe company money, local media deals, etc.

While Iím throwing numbers at you, hereís another one: $28 million. Thatís the price tag on Florida's addition to its football practice facility ó and most of that cost will be absorbed by booster donations, not department profits. Not that the Gators couldnít afford it anyway. With revenues at $81 million and a $70 million budget thatís a pretty place from which to start.

As for the Pirates, their departmental budget is in the neighborhood of $20 million.

And you thought the gap on the field was getting wider.

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07/27/2007 12:51:46 AM

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