Nov 16, 2013; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen during the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Davis Wade Stadium. Alabama Crimson Tide defeat the Mississippi State Bulldogs with a score of 20-7. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports
With the end of the season came a flurry of SEC West head coaches getting pay increases: Kevin Sumlin, Gus Malzahn, Hugh Freeze and, of course, Nick Saban is now making a whopping $7 million per year.
So where does that leave Dan Mullen? At $2.6 million, he is now the 13th highest paid coach in the SEC. With Hugh Freeze leap-frogging him (from $2 mil to $3 mil with new contract) it begs the question – is Mullen due a raise?
A quick comparison to Freeze and you’d have to conclude that yes, he is. As I pointed out over the weekend, Freeze’ first two years have been incredibly similar to Mullen’s first two in ’09 and ’10….so at the very minimum Mullen has proved he can sustain a program at that level. But then look at guys like Gary Pinkel at Missouri who is making just (it’s a lot of me, too) $100K more than Mullen and had his team in the SEC Championship Game this year…plus he’s one of the greatest coaches in their history. Really, despite Saban’s enormous contract, and Sumlin’s $5 million per, 8 of the 14 SEC coaches are between $2.6 – $3.2 million. So, if Mullen is due a raise, it won’t be the large percentage that some of the others I mentioned above received.
Next up: assistant coaches. Mississippi State assistant coaches’ salaries are currently ranked last in the SEC. Vanderbilt’s is unknown because they don’t have to disclose the information, but at best MSU is 13th….and that’s a good 12% below Kentucky who is 12th.
If you were watching how the defense played this year compared to 2012, you are probably really excited about what Geoff Collins has brought to MSU. There are some things like red zone defense that need to be cleaned up, but for the most part we saw great strides made on that side of the ball. You probably don’t want to see him go the way of Manny Diaz and leave for more money; I sure don’t. It’s time to ante up.
If we want to have any hope of competing at a high level, we’re going to have to offer salaries competitive to what coaches can get at the big seven: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Tennessee and Texas A&M. That may mean cutting back in other areas or other sports, but football is what pushes the meter and generates the money for those programs, so it’s just going to have to be that way if we want to be serious about winning.
Right now we are lagging behind. We are not even on par with the lower half of the conference. The bottom seven (minus Vandy and MSU) average $2.7 million among their assistant coaching staff. Including MSU it’s $2.6 mil. That is at least where we need to be – a good $450K above the current level. However, that is for the 2013 season, and the salaries are only going up from there so it’s more likely to be around $600K added to that pool just to keep up.
Ultimately, the MSU administration will have to look at the coaching salaries and make adjustments. I think they need to focus on what the market is. Is anyone coming after Dan Mullen? Who is more likely to leave for more money – Mullen or Collins? Mullen or Townsend? Mullen or ____ assistant coach. The answer has to be whatever assistant coach you want to put in that blank, outside of Les Koenning or Scott Sallach. There is not a program out there who is about to snatch Mullen away for $3.5-4 mil. It’s not happening. Maybe it could have happened 2-3 years ago, but right now his name isn’t nearly as hot as it was. So when you’ve got a coach who you know is going to be here next year for the same salary he got this year, it’s time to throw all the extra available money to the assistant coaches.
Continuity among the coaching staff is critical. The defense alone had 50% turnover this past year. Collins was a holdover at LB and was elevated to DC where he had to train two new coaches. Having them all back for 2014 will only help. We need to ensure that happens. On offense we had to swap out at WR, but we’ve got a chance to keep everyone here, and we need to do it.
Like I (and many others) mentioned awhile back, we need a special teams coach. No offense to Sallach, but I’ll trade him in for one. We also need to upgrade our pay of assistant coaching ASAP.
UPDATE: For a specific review of each coach’s salary, check the comments section.