Bargain Bin Bo?

Big Red NetworkSenior Writer IJuly 24, 2008

The news out of Lawrence, Kansas last week was the big money being paid to the big man in blue velour, Mark Mangino. Fresh off a 12-1 season, Mangino became the third highest paid coach in the conference and the highest paid coach in the Big 12 North at $2.3 million per year. Good investment or bad?

The only two coaches ahead of him, Bob Stoops and Mack Brown, have national titles to their name. Mangino? He's got a career record of 37-36, an 18-30 record against the Big 12, exactly one win against a Top 10 team and three wins in 12 games against Top 25 teams. And for that he gets essentially the same money as Phil Fulmer and more money than Steve Spurrier according to

Mark Mangino now makes more money than his school's basketball coach (who also has a national title) and that's at Kansas. That makes Bo Pelini, a head coach who has never lost a game, seem like a downright bargain at $1.1 million.

Just for reference, here are the Big 12 coaching salaries:

1. Bob Stoops - $3.5 mil
2. Mack Brown - $2.91 mil
3. Mark Mangino - $2.3 mil
4. Gary Pinkel - $1.85 mil
5. Mike Sherman - $1.8 mil
6. Art Briles - $1.8 mil
7. Mike Leach - $1.75
8. Bo Pelini - $1.1 mil
9. Dan Hawkins - $1.1 mil
10. Gene Chizik - $1.1 mil
11. Mike Gundy - $1.05 mil
12. Ron Prince - $760,000

In the grand scheme of things, I could really care less about how much money Nebraska pays their head football coach but in this case the salary is pretty interesting because $1.1 million doesn't really seem like "Nebraska money."

Tom Osborne made it quite clear last fall that he wasn't willing to break the bank on Nebraska's next head coach and he didn't. Art Briles, in his second FBS head coaching gig at Baylor, is getting $1.8 million. Hawaii is paying their first time FBS head coach the same amount of money as Nebraska. After Callahan's extension last year, he was the fourth highest paid coach in the conference. Pelini is in the bottom five for 2008.

So why the relative bargain in Bo Pelini? It's hard to say without being privy to the contract negotiations but it was probably a combination of things:

1) $1.1 million is pretty fair for a first time HC in the Big 12. That's what Hawkins and Chizik are making in their third and second years respectively.
2) The amount of money Nebraska had to pay to get out of the Pederson/Callahan mess certainly didn't help the future head coach when it came to the bargaining table.
3) Bo didn't press the issue, and that's really the key here.

Under normal circumstances, should the Nebraska job be one of the top four paying jobs in the conference? Yes, but nobody needs to be reminded that these are not normal circumstances. Still, could Pelini have used the Nebraska name as leverage to get a couple hundred thousand extra per year? In my opinion, yes.

One of the great differences between the Big 12 and the SEC is that the coaching salaries aren't some glorified pissing match (at least outside of Kansas and Baylor). Look down the list above and everything looks to be pretty much in order based on merit.

Yes Bo Pelini is probably a tad lower than he could be, but I don't think there's anyway that could be considered a bad sign. It seems to indicate a willingness to earn a higher salary, which seems to indicate a commitment to sticking around Nebraska for a while, which seems to make me feel pretty good about the current state of things.

So, Bo, it's a shame you're not making more money than Greg McMackin but I doubt you even know that's the case and I appreciate your willingness to be a company man.