Moving up to Big 12 comes with hefty price
MORGANTOWN - Show of hands, please: Everyone who didn't imagine that the cost of doing business in the Big 12 would rise along with those immense payouts, raise 'em up.
Didn't think so.
Dana Holgorsen's freshly minted and signed contract is just another drop in the bucket. Yes, every drop contributes to what will eventually be a sizeable pool, but certainly you expected nothing less.
Yes, Holgorsen signed a six-year contract on Wednesday that will pay him $2.3 million this year and $2.9 million by 2016 and 2017. And yes, those are only the base figures. Throw in incentives (some of which are all but guaranteed) and retention pay (which IS guaranteed, provided he simply stays on the job) and we're talking eve bigger numbers. In two years he'll make $3.075 million (thanks to a one-time payment of $300,000) and oddly that number will drop slightly after that.
But at a minimum Holgorsen is likely to make roughly $2.6 million this year and close to $3.5 million by the end of the contract. All told, West Virginia will fork over well north of $20 million over the life of the contract.
Again, though, did anyone expect anything else?
Think of it this way: By the time WVU begins getting a full share of Big 12 revenues in 2016, that number is likely to be at least three times what the school was receiving as a member of the Big East. This year that was just shy of $10 million, which was unusually high thanks to a BCS bowl berth and other factors. The norm was generally $7-9 million.
By 2016, the school will be getting a check for at least $20 million from the Big 12, and who knows how much that number will rise in the next four or five years?
You didn't think that extra money was all going to travel, did you? No, the new baseball coach will make twice as much as the old one. The football coordinators are being paid what the entire coaching staff made under Don Nehlen. It's just a different era, one that West Virginia became obliged to enter when the conference change was made.
It's neither good nor bad nor indifferent. It's just reality.
Another way to look at it: While Holgorsen's contract could pay him in the neighborhood of three times what either Bill Stewart or Rich Rodriguez made, it also puts him roughly in the middle of the pack among the Big 12's 10 head football coaches. Mack Brown of Texas and Bob Stoops of Oklahoma make twice what Holgorsen will.
Granted, those two are exceptions. They, along with Alabama's Nick Saban, are the country's $5 million men, hired by schools that simply do their financial business on a different plane.
But Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy and TCU's Gary Patterson will make more than $3 million this year. Charlie Weis hasn't won a game at Kansas - and not as many as anyone hoped in a failed tenure at Notre Dame - but is guaranteed $2.5 million in each of the five years of his contract at a basketball school. And Art Briles at Baylor rode RGIII's Heisman Trophy to a new contract that reportedly pays him in the neighborhood of $2.5 million this year.
Technically, that puts Holgorsen well into the bottom half of the Big 12 in terms of coaching pay, behind those six and ahead of only Kansas State's Bill Snyder, Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville and Iowa State's Paul Rhoads. Snyder makes just over $2 million, the under-fire Tuberville right at that number and Rhoads "just'' $1.6 million after an offseason renegotiation.
So all things considered, wow, $2.3 million just became somewhat of a bargain for a head coach, huh? Of course, bargain isn't the word you or I would use when considering what Holgorsen's twice-a-month checks will look like: just under $100,000 now and nearly $121,000 by the end of the contract.
The question, of course, is two-fold - whether Holgorsen will stay for the length of the contract and if he will be as successful as those who granted it to him hope.
Neither has a pat answer.
That $2 million buyout these days is a pittance, really. Remember how Rodriguez fought nearly to the death to avoid paying his buyout? It was twice what Holgorsen's is and he was making less than half as much money. And if he can't afford to pay it himself, well, any school that would come calling for him would be well able to bite that bullet.
Success isn't going to be easy to come by in the Big 12. Holgorsen is being counted on as the guy to assure that, thus the hefty new contract. If he's successful, then the contract pays for itself. If not, well, that's the risk, isn't it?
But it's really no different than when West Virginia signed Rodriguez and then upped the ante on him time and again. He signed his first contract in 2001 for "just'' $400,000 with incentives that capped out at $100,000. By the time he left he was under a contract that would have paid him nearly $2 million on average.
In that context, Holgorsen's contract signed five years later has inflated at less than market value. In fact, it has actually decreased in some respects. According to Rodriguez's final contract, the one he signed just three months before skipping off to Michigan in 2007, he was to make - get this - $2.65 million in 2009 and $2.4 million in the final year of the contract.
That would have been 2013, when Holgorsen will make $2.5 million before his two retention bonuses.
Again, though, say what you will about the ridiculous figures being thrown around, but it is what it is. That West Virginia signed a football coach for an average of about $2.8 million a year over six years might once have seemed ludicrous. Perhaps it still sounds that way.
But it's the price of doing business.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.