Arizona State Football: Sun Devil Coaches Continue To "Take the Money and Run"

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Arizona State Football: Sun Devil Coaches Continue To
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The great Steve Miller might have said it best: “They headed down south and they’re still running today, singing go on take the money and run.”

Perhaps Dennis Erickson is not the biggest classic rock connoisseur, but the last three offseasons those lyrics have rang true for Arizona State. Tuesday afternoon, a deal was finalized between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Sun Devils recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach, Grady Stretz.

Stretz’s base salary at ASU was $143,575, but was quoted stating, “It was going to take something special for me to leave.”

After signing a three-year deal with an NFL team, you can bet something special was offered. Exact figures of the deal have not been released, but the pay increase is thought to be considerable. 

Stretz has continued the trend that dates back to former tight ends coach Dan Cozzetto’s decision to leave Tempe for his native Washington in Feb. 2009.

Sure, Cozzetto did not head down south like Steve Miller sang, but heading back home is always preferred. When the Huskies offered a two-year contract worth a guaranteed $300,000, along with the title of running game coordinator, Cozzetto had to say yes.

As soon as Cozzetto left for Seattle, Erickson stated he would spread some of Cozzetto’s $206,500 salary to other coaches.

“I don’t want to lose any more coaches,” Erickson said in 2009. “I’m going to do what I can to balance things up [in staff salaries] and will continue to do that.”

Although, Erickson tried to keep his assistants at ASU with pay raises, promotions and attaching new titles to productive assistants, the “take the money and run” mindset persisted.

Last spring, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers called to request an interview with former ASU wide receivers coach Eric Yarber. One of the Sun Devils’ most valuable recruiters in the Southern California area later signed a two-year contract, which was reported to be a “substantial raise” compared to his three-year tenure in Tempe.  

However, the 2010 offseason of coaching effluence continued.

After serving as the Sun Devils recruiting coordinator, assistant head coach and safeties coach, Matt Lubick opted to accept a role at Duke University last February.

Lubick did not join the elite basketball program, but the rising Duke football coaching staff as passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach, as well as continuing the ace recruiting coordinator role he made a name for himself since his days at Ole Miss and Oregon State. 

Lubick was the ringleader of signing Vontaze Burfict (ASU’s highest-rated recruit ever), Corey Adams (an elite local lineman from Scottsdale Saguaro), Brock Osweiler (Montana’s Gatorade Athlete of the Year), as well as Dexter McCluster (an All-SEC selection after becoming the first player in conference history to total over 1,000 rushing yards and over 500 receiving yards in the same season).

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Judging by the Sun Devils' lack of optimal success recruiting Arizona’s top local linemen, Lubick was sorely missed as a proficient closer on the recruiting trail. The inroads that Lubick established in the Inland Empire, and mainly Corona and Norco, are still prominent, but ASU lost out to Utah at the 11th hour for wide receiver Quinton Pedroza from Chino Hills.

Coaching stability and lack of turnover is a key ingredient to running an upper echelon college football program. When the National Football League offers the opportunity to progress as a coach at the ultimate level, it is tough to turn down.

The monetary increase is also a major selling point as well, and extremely difficult to resist. 

Everyone who follows the ASU football program knows about the immense financial strains on the Grand Canyon state. Within this economic time frame, money flows in just as rapidly as the winter season lingers in the sun-drenched desert.

Arizona State’s highest paid assistant is receiving $224,500 compared to the lowest paid assistant earning $90,000. Yet, maroon and gold supporters want more victories and less mediocre displays on the gridiron.

USA Today published their analysis of coaching contracts in Dec. 2010, and newly crowned national champions, Auburn University had plenty of coaches with zeroes and commas in their lucrative contracts.

Marc Piscotty/Getty Images
The Pac-10 TV deal worth $53 million currently, but Larry Scott is aiming closer to the Big Ten Network operating budget of $230 million.

Gene Chizik’s highest paid assistant received $500,000 annually, including $165,000 in bonuses.

To stir the pot even more, Auburn’s lowest paid assistant earned $231,000, not including a potential $97,750 in incentives. Oh, and you can bet that each and every member of the Tigers staff received every penny of their bonuses.

Maybe this is a case of getting what you paid for. However, that does not always translate to Ws, just look at UCLA the past three seasons.

This is just another reason for Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott to reel in a BIG television contract for the “new conference of champions.” Revenue will rise to unseen heights. Coaching salaries will drastically increase from the doldrums of non-automatic qualifying conference levels. 

And perhaps the mass exodus of elite coaching assistants and cavalier recruiters will cease to exist with Erickson at the helm. Until that revenue is distributed in the next calendar year, coaches will continue to sing, “Whoa, whoa, go on take the money and run.”

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