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Should you give your football coach an extension?

Hey everybody, thanks for your patience. It’s good to be back in Chicago, and especially good to not be stuck in LAX anymore, holding two screaming children while strangers passed by and wished me Happy Father’s Day. I hope yours was more peaceful than mine.

Anyway, I’m back now, and only sort of jet lagged. On to the #sports #content!

Should you give your football coach an extension?

Most conferences don’t hold their media day events for another month. But BYU isn’t in a conference, and they don’t have to follow your rules, man, so their media day is today assuming you’re reading this on Tuesday, June 18.

If you’re not personally invested in BYU football, you’d probably only interested in the first portion of the event, which is when they announce any program news.

I expect the school to announce some details of their next ESPN contract. I wrote about this a fair amount before I went on my “vacation”, and while there’s a good chance we’ll learn about the length of the deal, what (if any) involvement ESPN+ will have, and bowl assignments, I doubt we’ll hear about the financials, at least from BYU. My guess is that the two sides will lock up an agreement through around 2024, but that’s just an educated guess.

There’s another issue that I doubt BYU will explicitly address, but that’s really interesting to me, and might be interesting to other programs. That’s the contract status of head coach Kalani Sitake.

Typically, FBS head coaches don’t complete their full contract terms. Either they fail to meet expectations, and are fired before the contract ends, or they meet expectations, and get their contract extended before it ends.

Has Sitake met expectations? Ehhh, that’s unclear. He’s only 20-19 over three years. The team cratered to one of it’s worst showings in the last fifty years during his tenure, and his recruiting has been meh, even by BYU standards, but he’s also taken the team to two bowl games, dealt with horrible injury luck, and scored a few noteworthy wins, including last year’s upset of Wisconsin.

A lot of schools would have probably extended Sitake by now, if only for an extra year. The conventional wisdom is that if a school doesn’t do that, they were signaling that they weren’t sufficiently committed to the coach, and others would use that against him in recruiting. If the coach can’t recruit, the program enters a death spiral, etc.

I have no doubt that coaches use the contract situations of other coaches against them in recruiting. But there is absolutely no limit to the bullshit coaches will say on the recruiting trail about literarily anything. Negative recruiting is not constrained by facts. If the question of whether a coach contract expires in two years or three is the dealbreaker for a prospect, a school shouldn’t make an extra financial commitment to that coach because he clearly sucks at recruiting.

The truth is, an extension to “show stability” isn’t worth anything, unless the buyout is increased. You can have a coach signed for five years, ten years, fifty years, but if the buyout isn’t very big, the school will can that coach the second the boosters clamor for it. If you’re jacking up the buyout for a coach that you aren’t 100% certain should be around for the next several years, you’re just flushing money down the toilet.

BYU does things very differently than most programs when it comes to hiring coaches. For one, since they require their head coaches to be active members of the LDS church, their hiring pool is like, literally, six dudes. You don’t get to be trigger happy if you’re at risk of having to hire a high school coach if you get turned down by the two other Mormons on the job market.

But I think they also recognize that it doesn’t make sense to flush money, or flexibility, away if they don’t have to. So they’re not giving Sitake the extension now. And I think that’s the right call.

Nobody is rushing to hire Sitake away right now. This coming season will give his administration plenty of opportunities to prove they should stick around or not. There’s no point in committing hundreds of thousands of dollars to extend a .500 coach, only for him to head into October with a 2-6 record (look at BYU’s schedule, that’s totally possible), and look stupid. And if BYU rebounds and wins eight-ish games, BYU won’t lose their chance to draw up a new deal during the offseason.

More schools should do this. Don’t listen to the agents or people whining on Twitter. Almost all of these head coaches are overpaid as it is. If you don’t have to extend a guy early (i.e. nobody is trying to steal him away), then don’t. Don’t be like Rutgers.

Apparently you can get rich coaching college baseball?!?

By design, I’ve tried to make college football the focus on this newsletter, which is why I haven’t say, written about college basketball reform efforts or the FBI investigations there. But this nugget about college baseball really caught my eye. From USA TODAY:

At least nine college baseball coaches are making $1 million or more, while at least 11 MLB managers are making $1 million or less, USA TODAY Sports surveys have found.

Among the MLB managers making less than $1 million this season are three who work in three of baseball largest markets: The New York Mets’ Mickey Callaway ($950,000), the Boston Red Sox’s Alex Cora and the Philadelphia Phillies’ Gabe Kapler ($900,000 each).

Even if many of them are hilariously overpaid, you can understand why so many college football and college basketball coaches make a ton of money. Those games are regularly on national TV, played in front of thousands and thousands of people, and are one of the biggest centers of campus marketing and student life.

College baseball…isn’t, at least not nationally. It’s a huge deal in the South, Texas, and in a few other pockets, but the vast majority of D1 programs, including many programs in power conferences, don’t even draw 3,000 fans a game. Outside of the postseason, it isn’t on national television very often. It’s hard to say for certain, given how dubious college athletic accounting is, but it seems like a safe assumption that for most of D1, college baseball isn’t a moneymaking sport.

In power leagues, it looks like the average base salary is over $500,000 a year. In the SEC, it’s over $800,000, which apparently isn’t that far off from some big league jobs.

I’m not surprised you can make good money near the top of the college baseball profession. I am surprised you can make close to Major League money, especially when most of the players on a college baseball roster aren’t even on full scholarship.

If there’s so much extra money floating around in the sport, it might be nice for more of it to go to hiring more assistant coaches, or increasing the scholarship limits, or other stuff that might directly improve the experience for the students. Buuuuut, that isn’t happening.

One argument that I hear from folks, including some in college athletics, is that massive TV revenues are good, because it gives schools resources to invest in other sports. But we’re not really seeing a deluge of schools rushing to start wrestling, or lacrosse, or hockey programs. Where program growth is happening, it’s often with sports like beach volleyball or crew, mostly to inflate roster numbers to reach Title IX compliance.

Instead, that money goes to coaches, administrators, or to double down on already successful sports. What’s better for the athletic department, two million bucks to build up a fledgling swimming program, or for fancier weightlifting machines for the football team? I think you know the answer.

Weird how that wealth doesn’t seem to trickle down all the time, huh.


Unlike the rest of the economy, which does this perfectly well, all the time~~

Looks like yet another school is joining Division 1

The odds of immediate athletic success when joining Division 1 are long. But that hasn’t stopped schools from trying.

Cal Baptist and Northern Alabama are in the process of transitioning to Division 1 athletics. Merrimack, Cal-San Diego, Dixie State (which is in Utah, lol), LIU Post and Augustana have all announced plans to do so as well. These programs will compete in some of the smallest and least prestigious in Division 1, but hey, they’ll be in the building.

It sure looks like another school is about to join them. Specifically, Bellarmine University.

I kinda get why they’d want to do this. Bellarmine already has an athletics tradition, especially in basketball (they were DII national champs in 2011). They’re trying to grow the school’s profile outside of their Louisville home. They’ve already reportedly got a conference invite (the Atlantic Sun) all locked up. If you’re trying to grow the school, and are prepared to spend the money to do it, why not shoot your shot?

I think it’s interesting that multiple schools are lining up to do this, knowing that athletic costs are only going up, revenue is less secure (Louisville may have a fat TV and apparel contract, but nobody in the Atlantic Sun will), and the benefits are more fraught than ever. It is rare for a team to leave Division 1, and for every team that does, at least a half dozen would like to take their place.

I wish all of these schools luck. I think they’re going to really, really need it. And for most schools considering such a move, I’d recommend being absolutely, brutally honest about what they hope to achieve, and what they’re willing to pay to get there. I doubt it will be worth it.

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I’m at @MattSBN and [email protected] if you have tips, comments, concerns, insults (but only if they’re funny, please) or other feedback.

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