Big Ten Football: Coaching Suddenly Unstable Once Again

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Big Ten Football: Coaching Suddenly Unstable Once Again

If you were a Big Ten coach in 2012, raise your hand. There should be 120 of you with your hands raised (yes, each and every one of them is reading this, and at the exact same time. That's how the Internet works).

Now, if you're a Big Ten coach in 2013, keep those hands raised.

Did you see that? That's one-quarter of the Big Ten's coaching staff gone between the two seasons. At least. As ESPN.com notes, 32 of the Big Ten's coaches have left and technically there's still about six months left for more to leave—though we're generally past the usual point of departure for coaches. If they're leaving, they're usually gone by now.

Moreover, it's the second year in a row the Big Ten has undergone mammoth change. Last year, the total was 40 coaches leaving. That's literally one out of every three coaches gainfully employed in the Big Ten for the 2011 season. That ain't good.

Now, yes, that 2012 total of 32 departures is directly impacted by the departures of Bret Bielema from Wisconsin and Danny Hope from Purdue. Head coaches leaving typically means mass defections for assistants, and in both scenarios, that's exactly what happened.

But in terms of the Big Ten as a whole, that's barely the half of it. Even aside from the typical exodus, 14 other assistants peaced out.

Here's the list as a whole, via ESPN.com:

Illinois: 5 (all assistants, two coordinators) 
Indiana: 2 (all assistants, one coordinator) 
Iowa: 3 (all assistants) 
Michigan: 1 (assistant) 
Michigan State: 2 (both assistants, one coordinator) 
Minnesota: 0 
Nebraska: 0 
Northwestern: 0 
Ohio State: 0 
Penn State: 1 (coordinator) 
Purdue: 10 (head coach, all nine assistants) 
Wisconsin: 8 (head coach, seven assistants) 

There are two factors at work here. The first is obvious: The Big Ten struggled mightily as a whole in 2012 and the teams that had worse seasons were more likely to bid an assistant or two farewell. Of the four teams who kept their staff intact, only Nebraska could possibly make a case for having an underwhelming year and it won 10 freaking games.

It's just a lot easier to listen to other job opportunities when you're not having fun, and Big Ten football wasn't a lot of fun in 2012.

There's also the issue of assistant coach pay. We have just a few things to say about that. And the fact is the Big Ten is not doing a great job of keeping pace with the rest of college football when it comes to paying assistants. That's not a direct encouragement to leave, but it's certainly not much of a discouragement either.

That instability isn't automatic doom for a college football team, but it does mean more time needs to be spent on familiarizing players with position coaches and vice versa, and in a college football environment where scarcity of time is a real issue, that has a negative effect on the amount of time spent on actually improving the team's level of play.

The only way the Big Ten can afford to keep turning over such high volumes of coaches every year is if it replaces them with more sought-after coaches, and that's going to come from higher investments in assistant coach pay.

Make them want to come to (then stay in) the Big Ten, and the stability comes with it. 

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