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USA Today’s Updated Coaches’ Salary Table–TOB Leads All Coaches In ‘Other Pay’

November 17, 2011

Hat tip to the fine folks at BC Interruption for bringing my attention to the updated coaches' salaries table from USA Today. They mention it as it relates to Frank Spaziani being one of the lowest paid coaches in the league and what implications their current financial commitment to football might be if/when Spaz is fired and they go looking for a replacement.

Similarly, this same chart might offer some clues as to what the financials could shape up to be if/when Tom O'Brien is let go should his team fail to make a bowl this year. 

While O'Brien's total salary of ~$1.88 million makes him the fifth-highest paid coach in the ACC, his total salary is almost evenly split between "School Pay" ($932,950) and "Other Pay" ($945,000). In terms of strictly "School Pay," O'Brien is the 11th-highest paid coach, ahead of only interim coach Everett Withers at UNC.

But while O'Brien's "School Pay" is one of the lowest in the ACC, O'Brien leads not only the rest of the conference but the entire country in "Other Pay." The next-highest amount among all FBS coaches is (or was) Mike Stoops at Arizona at $265,000, a gap of $680,000 and over two-and-a-half times Stoops' total.

So what is "Other Pay?" USA Today explains their methodology:

USA TODAY changed its methodology slightly between 2007 and 2009. Previously, university-reported pay was distinct from all other forms of pay, regardless of source. Starting in 2009, any pay the university guaranteed (even if paid by Nike or another source) is listed as "university pay." Anything not guaranteed by the university is listed as "other" pay.

This was a wise move on USA Today's part, as seemingly every school reports coaches income differently. Structuring the table the way they do now allows for a closer apples-to-apples comparison.

A large chuck of O'Brien's "Other Pay" comes from the compensation he receives from Capital Broadcasting for his coaches shows, both television and radio, and from his endorsement deal with Adidas. Ancillary income from endorsement deals and coaches shows didn't typically fall under the heading of "guaranteed income" in years past, but based on this table it seems most coaches now structure their contracts to have most or all of this ancillary income guaranteed.

Obviously, how a coach's salary is divided between these two types of pay is a key component of determining what a coach is owed during a buyout situation–schools are obviously only on the hook for the portion of his compensation guaranteed by the school. 

But what makes O'Brien's contract unique? Why is there such disparate gap between O'Brien and the rest of his coaching peers with respect to non-guaranteed income? It seems odd to me that any agent would allow their client to sign a contract extension–at a time when his future at NC State was still very much up in the air–where over half of his client's income (and therefore HIS income) could potentially vanish during a coaching change.

But perhaps agreeing to State's terms of guaranteeing only half of Tom's salary was part of what allowed him to get a longer extension than he might have typically received. Surely Debbie knew there was either a chance he could be let go soon if things didn't drastically improve.* Providing a longer, half-guaranteed extension still allows coaches to recruit under the security blanket of a long-term contract while lessening the financial risk should the athletics department find itself in a position to let O'Brien go.

This is the most plausible idea I've been able to come up with to this point.

So for those out there saying there's no way State makes a change this year, consider the unusual details of O'Brien's current deal. Yes, his contract runs through 2015, but if State is only on the hook for less than half of O'Brien's total salary, the financial roadblock of making a coaching change is only half as daunting as it may have once appeared.

*EDIT: Ok, so apparently TOB signed his extension shortly before Debbie was hired, i.e. while we were still under the Reign Of Terror known as the Lee Fowler era. So I choose to blame any and all inconsistencies or oddities on him, and give him zero credit for anything that may appear to be shrewd negotiation on Fowler's part.

Here's the chart:

Further reading: PDF copies of Tom O'Brien's contract, including a document from November of 2010 that outlines his "Other Pay" (h/t to @D1scourse for the find):

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