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MAILBAG! Strength coaches, buyouts, and what if the Big 12 took Louisville instead?

Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.

Thanks for your patience, as these last two weeks have been unexpectedly chaotic. Now that I finally have a second to catch my breath, I thought now might be a good time to get to those mailbag questions I’ve been promising.

If you have a question or story idea, hit me up at @MattBrownEP, or [email protected]. I promise I read every email or DM!

Okay, to the questions!

Twitter user Jake Welch asks:

I think this depends a little bit on how much you’re trying to “make up” here.

I agree with Stew about the critical importance of strength coaches. They spent more time in the offseason with players, they often have longer institutional memories and ties than a position coach, and they’re instrumental in establishing a program’s culture and mentality, to say nothing about any of the actual weightlifting stuff. There’s a reason so many of them are so well paid, and not just because colleges have to spend all this TV money on something other than the actual players.

I do think that a really great strength coach can help “coach up” lower regarded recruits, especially along the offensive line. Linemen can be tough recruits to evaluate outside of the five-star kind of guys because you’re trying to predict which kids can retain their athleticism after gaining 30 points, or projecting who might unlock athleticism after they lose 30 pounds. Programs that have really solid strength and conditioning programs, like Iowa, have been able to develop some position groups above what you might expect, given how well they recruit.

But can you hire an elite S&C guy and ride a bunch of gritty coach’s sons to a national championship? No. If you want to win in the playoffs, you need blue-chip recruits and lots of them. But could you potentially recruit like an Iowa, or a Utah, or a Kansas State, marry your S&C program with a solid program and identity, and win a lot of conference games? Sure.

Twitter user Leveytation asks:

Here’s a little more info about the contract extension he’s talking about here, via the Charlotte Observer:

Other details of Healy’s new deal include:

▪ A buyout of $631,250 if he leaves after the first year, decreasing to $505,000 over the remaining years of the deal. Healy’s new team would also have to schedule the 49ers in a home-and-home series.▪ Receiving 20 percent of any net increase in ticket sales for football games.▪ A $500,000 bonus if the 49ers win a total of 21 regular-season games over the next three seasons.

I don’t think Healy is the first person to have some sort of schedule clause as part of his buyout. Colorado State had a provision in Jim McElwain’’s buyout that required his new school to schedule a single game series with the Rams. Of course, Florida fired McElwain before that game was played, but hey, checks still cash. I also remember reading about this occasionally happening in college basketball.

I love the creativity here, and I also love any school shying away from locking in enormous buyouts, especially for hard jobs. It would be a little unusual for somebody to leave Charlotte for a big-time P5 gig though…it would be more likely for a coach at a place like Charlotte to leave for say, a good American Athletic Conference gig. And if that happens, I guess you have to ask yourselves…what is more valuable to Charlotte…an extra $500,000 in cash, or a shot at Memphis at home in, I dunno, 2026?

I’m not totally sure. For some MAC schools, the answer may very well be “take the cash”.

But if I’m a school like UCF, that struggles mightily to get big games, especially on campus, I’d absolutely try to get this into their contract. If I was Akron, or New Mexico, or San Jose State? Maybe this clause doesn’t have the same utility. Good thinking out of the box, though!

Extra Points reader Brad asks:

Do you think we’ll see more coordinators staying as such in high profile programs with the anticipation of them becoming the head coach when said head coach retires, a la Peterson at Washington, Day at Ohio St, etc? It seems like the coaches leaving effectively get to pick their replacement without said replacement having to interview and without potential negative effects on things like recruiting, issues with continuity, etc. Thoughts?

This is a good question. I suspect we’ll see more coordinators staying at high profile programs, like an Ohio State, Clemson or LSU, because in large part, those jobs now pay really well. If you’re say, Brent Venables at Clemson, and you’re making over $2 million, you’re taking a paycut, or close to it, for most other head coaching jobs in college football! If an assistant is at a place where they think they can continue to win a lot of football games, they can be much pickier about potential future jobs.

There might be something to the idea that being a trusted assistant makes you more likely to get a big-time job replacing the head coach, but opportunities to take coordinator jobs for head coaches that are successful enough to provide stability and where a school would want continuity, but where the head coach could also retire in the near future…are not super common.

Finally, Twitter user Alex Simon asks:

Whew! This is a hell of a question.

First, for those that don’t know, I actually wrote a book that looked at some of those questions, called What If? I don’t talk about Big 12 expansion scenarios in that book, but I seriously considered it. This would have been a really interesting idea.

I think we could probably do a good 3,000 words on this, but here are a few thoughts off the top of my head:

  • I actually think the Big 12 benefitted from West Virginia president Gordon Gee during the middle 2010s, as the league considered expansion in a very public manner. Many Big 12 institutions had interim or very new presidents, and Gee, while a loudmouth and an occasional lightning rod for controversy, had lots of experience with big-time athletics. Louisville, on the other hand, was besieged by scandals at multiple levels during that era. I’m just speculating, but I think those would have been even more harmful had Louisville been in the Big 12, which did not project the stability at that time that the ACC did.

  • Lamar Jackson against Big 12 defenses? Woooooweee that would have been fun.

  • I have absolutely no idea what would have happened to West Virginia. WVU had tried to gain admission to the ACC several times since the formation of the league, and surely would have tried again had they been locked out of the Big 12, but questions about their market size and academic profile would have remained. Once Maryland left for the Big Ten, the ACC likely would have also considered UConn or Cincinnati. I think now, you could make a pretty compelling case that UConn was one of the biggest losers of the last round of conference realignment. Had Louisville grabbed that Big 12 spot, perhaps UConn goes to the ACC, and the odd team out is West Virginia.

If that had happened…Cincinnati, Memphis, and West Virginia in the AAC would have still been really fun.

and perhaps most importantly,

  • Texas would probably still not be back.

Thanks for taking some time to read Extra Points. If you’ve got a question, a comment, a story idea, a hot tip, or conference realignment fanfiction that you want to share, drop me a line at [email protected], or at @MattBrownEP on Twitter dot com. We’ll do another one of these later on.

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