Thursday, January 20, 2011

College programs ponying up big bucks to land NFL coaches

By Steve Berkowitz

January 19, 2011

College football still loses marquee coaches such as Jim Harbaugh to the NFL. But it increasingly is becoming a two-way street.

Following splashy moves in the past two years by other elite programs, Miami (Fla.), Texas, Mississippi and Colorado recently have filled offensive or defensive coordinator jobs from the ranks of NFL assistants. Michigan joined in Tuesday, hiring defensive coordinator Greg Mattison from the Baltimore Ravens.

Florida, which last year attracted its defensive coordinator from the NFL, got both its coordinators from the pros this year when new head coach Will Muschamp revamped part of the staff he inherited from Urban Meyer. The Gators now have Charlie Weis, who had been the Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterbacks coach, and Dan Quinn, who had been the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive line coach.

The schools have not yet released their new contracts. Colorado athletics director Mike Bohn, though, described former Minnesota Vikings running backs coach Eric Bieniemy’s deal as “clearly a historical high” in term length and compensation for a Buffaloes football assistant. Michigan AD Dave Brandon says he’s “reasonably sure” Mattison’s deal “will surpass anything we’ve done in the past” for a football assistant.

Compensation has been booming for many top assistants in the Bowl Subdivision, USA TODAY studies in 2009 and 2010 found. The increases have been fueled in part by deals such as ones Tennessee made in 2009 with former NFL assistants Monte Kiffin ($1.2 million that year) and Ed Orgeron ($650,000), and one Georgia made last year with former Dallas Cowboys assistant Todd Grantham ($750,000).

Because of huge TV rights deals, especially those made by the Big Ten and Southeastern conferences, “college football has never been more lucrative than it is today,” says Neil Cornrich, who represents many college and pro football coaches.

Cornrich also says that because of the increased sophistication of college football and the speed with which college and pro teams are evolving and innovating, “the best guys are able to go back and forth.”

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