Shocker: SEC reigns in coaching pay yet again

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Every year for the past few years, USA Today has done an exhaustively outstanding job in compiling the salaries of Div. 1-A head coaches, private institutions notwithstanding, and putting them into a database that’s too compelling not to pour over and dissect.

Every year, the dollar amounts attached to the names of coaches whose schools reside in the SEC and are found in that database trump that of every other conference in the country.  And, in a stunning turn of events, that’s the case for the umpteenth time in a row again this year.

To put an exclamation point on just how far the salaries in the SEC have spiraled into the financial stratosphere, the 11 coaches in that conference — Vanderbilt was not included in the database — will make a combined $34,121,380 in 2011 according to the latest figures published by the paper.  The combined total pay of the 47 coaches in Conference USA, the MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt and WAC?  $28,848,050.

The lowest-paid coach in the SEC — Kentucky’s Joker Phillips at just over $1.7 million — would be the highest-paid coach in any of those conferences with the exception of the MWC and Conference USA; however, the coach in the former conference — TCU’s Gary Patterson — will be taking his $2.018 million salary this year to the Big 12 in 2012, while the latter’s coach — SMU’s June Jones — and his $1.727 million are likely heading out to the Big East.

USA Today notes that the average salary in 2011 of all 110 coaches included in the latest database is $1.47 million, up 55 percent from the first year they did the survey in 2006.  All told, 64 of those 110 coaches make at least $1 million annually.

A total of $159,701,667 — which doesn’t include bonuses, incidentally — will be disbursed to coaches in 2011; that total is more than the gross domestic product of the Falkland Islands and Kiribati, a country of just over 103,000 residents located in the Pacific which, like Les Miles, is noted for its body percussion.

The average total 2011 pay of SEC coaches is just over $3.1 million, a total that’s obviously tops in the country for any conference.  Not far behind, relatively speaking, is the Big 12 at $2.506 million, followed by the Big Ten ($1.946 million) and ACC ($1.872 million).  Somewhat surprisingly, the Big East ($1.683 million) actually trumps the Pac-12 ($1.594 million); the caveat there is that USC’s Lane Kiffin and his rumored $3-$4 million annual salary, which is not included in this year’s listing, would push the Pac-12 past the Big East.

No coach in the SEC, Big 12 or Big East — again, based on those included in the 2011 database — makes less than seven figures, while just one each in the ACC (North Carolina interim coach Everett Withers, $500,000) and the Big Ten (Purdue’s Danny Hope, $925,000) will make less than a million dollars this year.  At the other end of the spectrum, just six coaches in the five non-automatic qualifying BcS conferences will make more than a million in 2011 — Patterson, Jones, Boise State’s Chris Petersen ($1.525 million), UCF’s George O’Leary ($1.392 million), Houston’s Kevin Sumlin ($1.2 million) and Hawaii’s Greg McMackin ($1.15 million).

Interestingly, five of those six coaches, with McMackin being the lone exception, are at schools that will either move or are rumored to be moving to an automatic qualifying conference in the next year or two.

On the individual front, Mack Brown is the highest-paid coach in the game at $5,193,500.  His average pay of $432,792 per regular season game is more than the annual salary of 22 Div. 1-A coaches.  Arkansas State’s Hugh Freeze is the lowest-paid coach in the country at $202,160 for those who are interested.

Brown and Nick Saban ($4.833 million) will make more than the $4.42 million the 12 coaches in the MAC will make combined this year, while Brown, Saban, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ($4.075 million), LSU’s Les Miles ($3.856 million), Iowa Kirk Ferentz ($3.785 million), Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino ($3.638 million) and Auburn’s Gene Chizik ($3.5 million) will all make more than the $3,431,653 the nine Sun Belt coaches will make combined.

And, to keep this topical given the events of the past 10 days or so: just four coaches in AQ conferences — Hope, Withers, Colorado’s Jon Embree ($725,000) and Washington State’s Paul Wulff ($600,050) — made less in 2011 than Joe Paterno‘s $1.023 million at Penn State.

LSU QB Danny Etling undergoes back surgery

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LSU quarterback Danny Etling has undergone surgery to relieve back pain, the program announced Monday.

“Danny had a minor back procedure this morning and everything went alright,” head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement (and not in an Arrested Development way).

Etling has played through back pain for months, according to Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, and this procedure should remove that pain.

In a possibly related story, Etling went 4-of-11 for 53 yards in LSU’s spring game.

A transfer from Purdue, Etling appeared in 11 games for the Tigers last season, completing 160-of-269 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,123 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions.

Etling’s recovery from Monday’s procedure is expected to be a short one.

Willie Taggart defends Oregon’s offseason workouts in interview

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Things got off to a rocky start for new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart. Among the issues Taggart was forced to deal with soon after accepting the job of head coach at Oregon was players falling ill during and after offseason workouts.

Three Ducks were hospitalized in January to treat symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a product of overworking leading to soft tissue and possible kidney damage. Oregon suspended strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde following the hospital treatments to players, and questions about his certification were thrust under a microscope. Despite the unfortunate situation in Eugene, Taggart has defended his program’s workout routine in an interview with Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com.

“We know we didn’t do anything to try to hurt our kids. We’d done [the same program] everywhere we’ve been and never had a problem,” Taggart explained in the interview. “I think our guys just overworked themselves and didn’t hydrate. … They were trying to impress the new coaches.”

It seems Taggart has been trying to raise the bar at Oregon and find a way to make his new players tougher overall. That is a common strategy for a new coach in a new program, so Taggart’s mission is not unique in that sense.

Maybe it was just a tough physical transition in the approach to workouts after years of Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich running the show. Will this all pay off in the end? Taggart sure hopes so.

Ohio State claims 2017 national championship… for spring game attendance

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For the third consecutive year, Ohio State is your national champion in the all-important category that is spring game attendance. The Buckeyes once again had the largest attendance for its spring game this month despite stadium renovations cutting out 20,000 seats from Ohio Stadium. After a weekend that saw Alabama and Penn State prove to be the final hurdles necessary to clear, the Buckeyes can once again boast about having the highest attendance this spring, for whatever that is worth.

Alabama (73,426), Penn State (71,000) and Georgia (66,133) made their final push to round-out the top five spring crowds this year over the weekend. The only power conference programs remaining on the spring game schedule are Arkansas, Oregon, Virginia, and UCLA this coming weekend. If you took the combined spring attendance of each of those schools, they would collectively fall shy of Ohio State’s spring crowd total for this season.

Spring Game Attendance Top 10 for 2017 (as of 4/24/2017)

  1. Ohio State – 80,134
  2. Nebraska – 78,312
  3. Alabama – 74,326
  4. Penn State – 71,000
  5. Georgia – 66,133
  6. Clemson – 60,000
  7. Michigan – 57,418
  8. Florida – 48,000
  9. Auburn – 46,331
  10. Oklahoma – 43,723

How valuable the attendance figures for the spring game varies from fanbase to fanbase, and even within each fanbase there is a wide range of opinion on what the significance of the spring game attendance really is. It does help inject some reason to be enthusiastic about the program on the recruiting trail, but it ultimately is open to interpretation just like so many other recruiting tools. Remember, the majority of schools out there hardly make an effort to promote their spring game and make it an event fans look forward to. There may be no conference that demonstrates the wide range of affection for the spring game than the Big Ten.

The Big Ten is led by Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State and, recently, Michigan when it comes to spring game crowds, but then there is the curious case of Wisconsin. The Badgers have a loyal following, but have not cracked the 10,000-fan mark since 2014, when I began tracking spring game attendance figures. Northwestern has never even kept track of its spring scrimmage numbers, and neither has Indiana for the past three years.

You can check the updated spring game attendance numbers and sort them by conference HERE.

Edgerrin James’ nephew to transfer from Miami

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Last season, Jeff James was one of seven players  suspended for Miami’s Russell Athletic Bowl game against West Virginia.  Nearly four months later, he’s gone.

In a press release, Miami announced that the defensive back “is no longer a member of the football program.” No reason was given for the nephew of former Hurricane great Edgerrin James deciding to leave The U.

“I talked to Jeff and we both felt it was in his best interests to get a fresh start somewhere else,” head coach Mark Richt said in a statement released by the school. “We wish him all the best in his future plans.”

James was a three-star member of UM’s 2016 recruiting class.  247Sports.com had the Orlando high school product rated as the No. 112 safety in the country and the No. 1,678 player in its composite rankings.

The defensive back played in one game as a true freshman, the season-opening win over FCS Florida A&M.