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College football coaches' salaries are crazy, but it's money well spent

I can’t condemn such largesse. I figure Bob Stoops and Nick Saban have 45, or 68, times as much responsibility as the average college professor. Win the Sugar Bowl. Keep the fans happy so the coffers stay full. Keep your players academically eligible and off the police blotter.
by Berry Tramel Published: June 5, 2014
/articleid/4888229/1/pictures/2733013">Photo - OU football head basketball coach Bob Stoops signs autographs for fans during the annual OU Sooner Caravan stop in Tulsa, Okla., taken on June 5,2014. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
OU football head basketball coach Bob Stoops signs autographs for fans during the annual OU Sooner Caravan stop in Tulsa, Okla., taken on June 5,2014. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World

“In our case, I don’t know, we’ve given roughly 40 to 44 million dollars to our academic programs and the university as a whole over the last 10 years,” Stoops said Thursday night during a pep rally at the OU-Tulsa campus. “That seems to be a pretty positive business model. When before Joe Castiglione and president Boren got here, I think they were losing money. (The university) was funding the athletic program.

“So listen, numbers are numbers. Those numbers seem to be pretty positive. I imagine Alabama’s are, too. I don’t know what they are. But at the end of the day, I think everybody thinks anybody can do something. ‘They can just throw anybody in there.’ Well, they had several people ahead of (Saban), didn’t do real well and they probably weren’t making the kind of money they are now.”

That’s an inconvenient truth. But truth it is.

“I’ve chased kids to class since 1988,” Stoops said of his first full-time job, at Kent State. “I’ve tried to get kids to do the right things since then. When you go to the NFL, they can cut guys, bring a new guy in. I tell our guys all the time, ‘We don’t get to get new guys.’ We need to get our guys to do it right.”

But only since 1998 has Stoops carried the burden of so much responsibility. When Castiglione hired Stoops away from Steve Spurrier’s Florida staff, Stoops had no idea what he was in for. Assistants make suggestions and come up with ideas. Head coaches make decisions.

“As a head coach you make decisions every minute,” Stoops said. “Virtually every head coach I've had that's gone on from me, within a month has said, ‘I had no idea with all that comes at you on a daily basis with so many kids and so many decisions to be made.’

“Obviously when you get in a pattern where we have for 16 years, we have a lot of processes and systems that are in place that are ironed out now that we feel positive, but you constantly manipulate those or change them. So no, none has any idea until you're in that position, until you're the one that has to make that decision every 10 minutes.”

Some day, the well might run dry. The television money that flows through college football might decrease. Those heavy paychecks might indeed bounce.

And the money paid to football coaches might remain unpopular throughout campus. Except for one enclave. Those paychecks make perfect sense in the business college.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at . He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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