Has Wisconsin Learned Anything About Coaching Contracts Since Bret Bielema Left?March 25, 2014
It took just one season and interest from one NFL organization for Wisconsin to boost the pay of head coach Gary Andersen.
On Monday, the university's Board of Regents approved a new contract for Andersen that includes a significant raise. As previously announced on the university's Twitter account, the contract also takes the second-year coach through the 2018 season—a one-year extension on his original deal.
The terms of Andersen's new contract call for him to make $2.2 million in 2014 with annual raises of $100,000. His original contract was for $1.8 million in 2013 with $100,000 raises in each of the following four years.
It represents a little more than a 20 percent raise. Put another way, Andersen will make in 2014 what he would have made in 2017 under his old contract.
So, is Wisconsin doing a good job of paying Andersen? Sort of.
The program acted quickly, and percentage-wise, gave Andersen a nice salary boost without using tax or tuition dollars.
On the other hand, it took Bielema seven years to get roughly a $2.6 million salary in Madison—and he led the program to three straight Rose Bowls. Andersen can make that amount in six years assuming he doesn't receive another restructured contract. Basically, the payouts and respective timelines between Andersen and Bielema are similar.
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez confirmed in a statement that outside forces played a role in Andersen's extension/raise, although considerations for it began last year. In February, NFL Network‘s Ian Rapoport tweeted the Cleveland Browns had spoken with Andersen about filling their coaching vacancy. Andersen later confirmed in his own statement that he had been approached by the organization.
From Alvarez's statement:
Then some weeks later, as has been reported, the Cleveland Browns approached Coach Andersen about their vacant head coaching position. Gary did not ask directly or even imply that his salary should be increased, but that only re-affirmed my thoughts about adjusting his compensation.
I’ve always believed that we should do what we can to keep good coaches in our department and that is why I wanted to take this proactive approach with Coach Andersen.
There's no doubt Wisconsin is being proactive with Andersen, but is it a result of a lesson learned? The narrative is former head coach Bret Bielema left for Arkansas because of Wisconsin's inability to properly pay his assistants, among other things.
Here are Bielema's comments, via of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
We are talking money I can’t bring them at Wisconsin. Wisconsin isn’t wired to do that at this point. I just felt for me and for my future and my wife and what I wanted to accomplish in the world of college football I needed to have that ability to do that. And thankfully I found that here at Arkansas.
Paying assistants and paying the head coach are two different things, but Wisconsin has shown a greater willingness to shell out for assistants, too (in large part because of Andersen's initial salary). Per a USA Today database of assistant coach salaries, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig made $480,000 in 2013.
Wisconsin's $2.495 million pool for assistants, per a Detroit Free Press database, is the fourth-largest in the Big Ten. In 2012, that pool was $1.973 million, seventh among Big Ten public universities. (H/T From Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal)
However, Wisconsin has maintained that Andersen has the same funding for his assistant coaches as Bielema did.
In fact, UW officials have maintained Bielema had the same pool of $2.5 million to pay his assistants as Andersen does.
If that’s true, it means Bielema would have left more than $500,000 unused. That would seem to contradict his contention that he needed more money to keep assistants from leaving. Bielema has declined multiple interview requests since his departure to address that issue.
Regardless, Wisconsin is still getting a solid coaching staff at a bargain price. Even in the Big Ten, the Badgers aren't paying their head coach or assistants top dollar—not when some assistants, like Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, are closing in on the $1 million range. (H/T Chris Huston of College Football Talk)
Money was an issue between Wisconsin and its former coach. Speaking to Dan Wolken of USA Today last year, though, Alvarez didn't sound too upset about Bielema's departure.
For what it's worth, Andersen seems to be better liked within and around the program. Whether or not that translates into more money remains to be seen, but if Andersen is able to achieve a similar level of success as Bielema, that likely won't be a problem.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand.