Five years ago, Les Miles convinced Oklahoma State to become the first school in college football to offer multi-year contracts to all assistant coaches.
The move added security to a profession that had felt little over the years.
Today, long-term contracts, performance-based incentives and rapidly rising salaries are reasons why there's never been a better time to be an assistant coach in college football.
An in-depth analysis by The Oklahoman
of Big 12 coaching contracts and salaries revealed that assistant coaches have never been better compensated, with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State among those leading the way.
"Most of the guys making the big money would be doing it for peanuts because they love to coach,” said Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association. "But it's nice now that they're able to do what they love to do and be compensated.”
In just the last three years, assistant coaching salaries in the Big 12 have risen by almost 37 percent.
At OSU, that figure is a Big 12-high 65 percent, and would've been even higher had former Cowboy offensive coordinator Larry Fedora — who was making $393,000 — not left to be head coach at Southern Mississippi.
Once a bottom dweller in assistant coaches' pay, OSU, at $2.13 million, is now second in the Big 12, trailing only Texas' $2.38 million payroll.
OU, which just five years ago had one of the nation's highest total compensation packages for assistants, has fallen to fourth in the Big 12 at $1.93 million.
Still, pay has risen at OU by almost 30 percent over the last three years, and defensive coordinator Brent Venables remains one of the highest-paid assistants in the league with a salary of $315,000.
"When you look at it, universities are investing millions of dollars into their football programs,” said Teaff, who estimates that 50 percent of Football Bowl Subdivision schools now offer contracts to assistant coaches. "It only makes good business sense to have the top quality guys running them. And if you take care of those assistant coaches, you're going to make your school an attractive place for other coaches to come.”
But does bidding on the best assistant coaches on average translate into better football programs?
What's happened at Missouri recently certainly suggests so.
In 2005, Missouri ranked eighth in Big 12 assistant coaches' pay and had never finished better than third in the North Division dating back to the Big 12's inception in 1996, even though Gary Pinkel had been head coach since 2001.
Since then, the Tigers have increased assistant coaches' pay by more than 52 percent.
After finishing second in 2006, the Tigers won the North last year and were ranked No. 1 in the nation heading into the Big 12 Championship against OU.