College football coaching is at an all-time level of ridiculousness.
First, Lincoln Riley ditched Oklahoma for USC, then Brian Kelly hopped from Notre Dame to LSU when the Irish still had a pretty realistic shot at the College Football Playoff, and most recently Mario Cristobal said adios to Oregon to take his talents to Miami.
This sport has never seen anything like this before.
The coaches at Oklahoma, Notre Dame, and Oregon all got poached? To varying degrees, those are some of the biggest and most prestigious names in the sport, and they had their coaches stolen from them like they’re called Norman State, Notre Dame College, and ITT Oregon. This is pure lunacy.
College Football Coaching Is At an All-Time Ridiculousness
I expected all sports to go into overdrive after shedding most of the shackles forced by the pandemic, including college football. The coaching carousel was abnormally silent in 2020, and for good reason. I suspected 2021 and 2022 would probably make up for it in a big way, and some huge names and numbers would be bandied about.
But nobody saw this, not even a couple of weeks ago.
In part, this is a perfect storm that would be difficult to replicate again. Even if that’s true, though, it seems possible that we have entered the next era of college football, where no program is completely safe or stable, because money is the alpha and omega.
The Wild West nature of college sports has become extremely evident recently. New NIL laws have helped to formally acknowledge at least a portion of what the reality of college sports have been for decades at this point, and coaching salaries in football especially have been skyrocketing for years, another sign of the chaos of college sports. In the NFL, coaches cannot just speak with other teams and leave whenever they want when they’re under contract – in college, it’s every man for himself, all the time, no matter what.
The contracts mean nothing. It feels like the only part that matters if the buyout, and with the amount of money getting pumped into college sports, and football especially, these buyouts only make a difference in outcome sometimes.
Riley, Kelly, and Cristobal have all been given giant contracts that most people can’t really fathom. Riley is looking at $110 million in salary alone, not including all the other perks USC is offering him. Kelly signed a nine-year deal worth $95 million, and Cristobal will barely make ends meet with an average salary of $8 million per year for 10 years.
These contracts are in line with the ones signed by other coaches across the country who are staying with their programs, like the gigantic 10-year, $95 million extension Mel Tucker agreed to with Michigan State or the 10-year, $75 million agreement James Franklin reached with Penn State. And lest we forget the the humungous carrot dangled in front of Jimbo Fisher in 2017 to get him to leave Florida State for Texas A&M.
This is all to coach a sport where the athletes, until July 2021, were theoretically amateur student-athletes. And the NCAA wonders why no one takes it seriously.
There’s a massive shift occurring in college football, and all college sports for that matter. This is one piece of the puzzle that is the highly-volatile ecosystem of college football at the moment. Things are changing at a rate we’ve never seen before – acceleration is accelerating, and not just in the ACC.
This is not your father’s college football any longer. It’s not your childhood’s college football, either. It’s not even your adolescence’s college football. It’s a pseudo-professional, still-kind-of-masquerading-as-something-different unmitigated insanity of absurd money and an incredible bastardization of the purpose of higher education.
But hey, it’s pretty exciting.