Football Coaching Changes Quicken with Salary Increases

The football coaching carousel is already in motion at several major colleges and the 2008 football season has yet to conclude.  According to a recent report in USA Today, coaching changes are underway at 15 of the 119 NCAA Football Bowl Division institutions, 10 of them as a result of dismissals.  Next year, more than 75 percent of the coaches will have served for less than four years.  The coaching changes seem to be on the increase, indicative by the average length of stay of any college football coach as now a little more than five years.

The article considered early departures as an outcome of the increasing amounts of money paid to coaches, noting the early dismissal of several football coaches this year and the cost of buyouts to University of Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer ($6 million) and former University of Nebraska coach Bill Callahan ($3.125 million).  “No question,” University of Nebraska athletics director Tom Osborne says, “the whole thing has accelerated somewhat.”

“You have to wonder: Where’s the control?” stated Brit Kirwan, chancellor at the University System of Maryland and co-chair of the reform-minded Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, which decries the win-now-or-move-on approach as unbecoming of higher education. “It’s very mystifying and very disturbing.”

“This kind of thing is going on in other sectors, too, if you look at the CEOs of companies,” says Robert Frank, a Cornell economics professor who has worked with the Knight Commission. “It used to be they would survive for a long time in office whether the company was doing well or not. An example is Roger Smith at GM. But things have shifted in that domain so that now CEOs get hired, they’re paid much, much more money than they used to be paid and, the moment it becomes clear that the organization is not thriving under their leadership, they’re on a very short tether and are usually out in a year or two.

“We’re seeing the same thing now in major-college athletics.”