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The Big Ten has the most expensive assistant coaches

Some of them are worth it.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Michigan State Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

“They cannot spend on players, so it gets funneled to the coaches. This is where the profit is going.”

-David Berri, professor of applied economics at Southern Utah University, via Bill Shea, Crain’s Detroit Business

It pays to be an assistant coach in college football. And as of late, it is paying even more. The advent of the million-dollar head coach was a foregone conclusion more than two decades ago when Steve Spurrier became the first coach to earn a seven-figure salary. With the majority of head college football coaches now making at least $1 million annually, attention is now turning to assistant coaches.

It makes sense that Michigan would be near the top of the list of programs with the highest-paid assistant coaches, given that Jim Harbaugh himself makes $7.5 million annually. That dollar figure makes Harbaugh the third-highest paid head coach in college football. The Michigan program has three assistant coaches who are projected to make at least $1 million annually in the 2019. Last season, the Wolverines had two of the 21 coaches across the NCAA who earned that figure. For Michigan, assistant head coach Pep Hamilton and defensive coordinator Don Brown are joined by Josh Gattis, the newly-hired offensive coordinator from Alabama, as the high-earning assistant coaches on the sidelines. .

What makes somewhat less sense are the results achieved by this highly-paid cohort of coaches. While Ohio State has certainly spent its fair share on coaches, those coaches have won a College Football Playoff and several conference championships. Alabama and Clemson are in similar boat.

Three among the 2018 list of highest-paid assistants were from Ohio State. Co-defensive coordinators Greg Schiano and Alex Grinch are no longer with the program. Ryan Day was promoted to head coach.

The Big Ten happens to be a hotbed for highly-paid coaches, both head coaches and assistants. Last season, Urban Meyer was the second-highest paid coach in the nation behind Nick Saban. Notably, Meyer will certainly be taking a pay cut this season in his new assistant athletic director role, which pays $100,000 annually. Nebraska’s Scott Frost, Illinois’ Lovie Smith, Penn State’s James Franklin, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz and Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio also made the top-20 list.


“There’s no debating that this is a huge win for the Buckeyes. The team had lost five straight before Saturday’s game and were desperate to get back on track. We will see if Ohio State can keep things rolling into Tuesday’s matchup on the road against arch-rival Michigan.”

-Thomas Beindt, BT Powerhouse

After a strong showing in non-conference play, whoever picked Ohio State men’s basketball to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten looked like a genius as the team fell hard throughout the month of January. Things were looking desperate for Ohio State as the Buckeyes rolled into Lincoln Saturday night as losers of five-straight conference games. The Buckeyes pulled out a 70-60 win, but things are still pretty desperate for Ohio State. Chris Holtmann’s team is sitting at 13-6 overall with an abysmal 3-5 conference record. Suddenly, those two Big Ten wins over Minnesota and Illinois back in December become that much more important.

The Buckeyes are five games back from Big Ten frontrunner and sixth-ranked Michigan State, and 4.5 games back from rival Michigan. So it’s a bit of a blessing and a curse that Ohio State is set to take on the No. 5 Wolverines in Ann Arbor Tuesday. While the Buckeyes could make up a lot of ground with a win, Michigan has lost just once this year and holds a perfect record at home. Tuesday’s matchup is the only game scheduled against Michigan this season.

The outlook isn’t all bleak for the Buckeyes. They still have 12 games remaining in conference play and many opportunities to make up for past errors before the Big Ten Tournament starts in March in Chicago. Unfortunately, as it turns out, the teams Ohio State has already lost to and must face again--Michigan State, Iowa, Maryland and Purdue--are actually all very good teams (Rutgers still leaves something to the imagination). NCAA Tournament projections still favor Ohio State’s appearance in the field, but seeding and even earning a bid becomes more and more questionable as the Buckeyes fail to put together a signature win in conference play. A victory over a Huskers squad that is strong at home is a good start, but Ohio State’s postseason rests on what they can do next.


“With Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon all graduating, Hill will be the unquestioned leader of a talented WR unit that will include Mack, Olave, Victor Harris, C.J. Saunders, true freshman Garrett Wilson, and perhaps others.”

-Patrick Murphy, 247sports.com

It is true: The Buckeyes are losing pretty much everything on offense heading into the 2019 season. The reality is that, with a few key exceptions, the majority of the line, receiving corps, an experienced running back and the starting quarterback are gone. Why, then, are hopes high heading into the fall? It doesn’t hurt that Ohio State won the battle for a relevant transfer quarterback in Justin Fields, who very well may be eligible to play come next season. And realistically, as great as it was to have a one-two punch with Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins at running back, the talent of the latter was what made heading the NFL Draft this spring so much more appealing for the former.

So, yes: While the majority of starters in pure numbers are off to the draft, key elements remain. The Buckeyes have a quarterback (potentially) in Fields and a running back in Dobbins. That’s more than a good start. And wide receiver K.J. Hill followed in the footsteps of his wide receiver predecessors and opted to return for his fifth-year senior season. The line, while losing most of its muscle, returns Thayer Munford.

In addition to these veteran starters, a number of key backups return. Josh Alabi, for example, will play a critical role on the line after starting in place of the then-injured Munford during the Rose Bowl. Chris Olave and Austin Mack will complement Hill at receiver. Master Teague can rotate in with Dobbins at running back. And, due to a helpful recent rule change in college football, a number of true freshmen got to play last season, earning real-game experience without losing their redshirts.

So while it seems as though Ohio State’s offense is starting from scratch, it helps to know that there are pieces already in place.


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