Tons of money brings more pressure to win and puts jobs on the line in a week’s notice.
That’s why college football coaches like Oregon’s Mark Helfrich and Texas’ Charlie Strong are scorching hot on the hot seat. Those programs are not getting the most bang for their buck with Oregon at 2-3 overall and Texas 2-2 while far less opulent operations at Western Michigan and North Dakota State are media darlings this season.
To a certain degree, Colorado can be part of the feel-good, pay-less and get-more stories at Western Michigan and North Dakota State, although the most recent athletic department revenue figures for the Buffaloes is $67,852,236. That ranks No. 50 in the nation. Not bad. But that figure is still only 64 percent of Oregon’s revenue.
In a get-out-of-here scenario, the Buffaloes are in first place in the Pac-12 South while Oregon is in fifth place in the Pac-12 North. Colorado is under no pressure at all to succeed after being the dregs of the Pac-12 since joining the conference in 2011. The burgeoning Buffaloes upset the Ducks at Autzen Stadium in Eugene two weeks ago.
Texas’ athletic department revenue for the 2014-15 school year – the numbers were released by USA Today in January – was the second-most in the nation at $183,521,028. Only Texas A&M was above that with $192,608,876. Oregon, with state-of-the-art facilities and every uniform imaginable, ranked 21st with revenue at $105,701,523.
Western Michigan is at No. 73 with a revenue of $34,698,711, which is about 18.9 percent of Texas’ revenue. While Strong is weak in the minds of many Longhorn supporters, Western Michigan’s head coach, P.J. Fleck, is a hot coaching commodity. Purdue is already rumored as a potential destination but Fleck can probably take his pick of the Power 5 jobs available at season’s end.
North Dakota State is at No. 123 pocketing only $22,316,980, miniscule compared to Iowa, which had a revenue ranked No. 20 at $105,969,545. The Bison (4-0) defeated then-No.13-ranked Iowa at the Hawkeyes’ Kinnick Stadium on Sept. 17. North Dakota State’s revenue is only 21 percent of Iowa’s yet the Bison won on the road 23-21.
That result is not a fluke. North Dakota State, an FCS power, has won six consecutive games against FBS opponents, all of which have much deeper pockets than the Bison.
Life is good in serene Fargo, N.D. Things aren’t going so well in the vacuum of SEC football down in Baton Rouge, La. Les Miles is out of a job at LSU, which has the seventh-highest revenue in the nation at $138,642,237. Bob Stoops is hearing the cat calls. Oklahoma is one spot behind LSU on the revenue list at $134,269,349.
The Sooners are 2-2. Discussion of their game against Texas this weekend will focus more around the struggling head coaches instead of the matchup on the field.
That’s to be expected when two top 10 revenue schools are inexplicably losing more games than they should considering their budget. They are traditional powers in the Big 12.
Houston is in the American Athletic Conference and Boise State competes in the Mountain West. The Cougars are 5-0 and Broncos 4-0. Houston is ranked No. 6 in the AP Top 25 poll while Boise State is No. 19.
When it comes to revenue in 2014-15, Houston was all the way down at No. 62 ($44,815,210) and Boise State No. 64 ($43,858,018). The lowest Power 5 school was Washington State of the Pac-12.
The Cougars were No. 53 with a revenue of $54,112,604. The last time Wazzu measured up to what Houston and Boise State are doing now was when Mike Price was coaching there 15 years ago. Mike Leach, in his fifth year, is showing signs of bringing life to the program but it is nowhere near the realm of Houston and Boise State.
What is obvious: Money (plenty of it) does not always buy a program happiness. It can create a suffocating situation because of the expectations placed on a program. Athletic directors at such institutions have the pressure to hire a coach whose performance meets the bottom line. What supposed to be a fun sport becomes a cutthroat business.
The AD at Western Michigan has nowhere near the pressure to succeed as the one at Oregon. If Fleck did not pan out, nothing is expected of that program anyway. Helfrich is struggling so the lynch mob comes out in Eugene. He will not be provided a couple of more years to turn the program around.
It is no wonder Fleck can dress up as a football player at practice and go airborne like Superman jumping into the arms of his players after a victory. He is having fun in a carefree environment.
Strong is only in his third season at Texas, not yet afforded a complete four-year cycle of his recruits. Some reports suggest he may be gone after this weekend if the Longhorns lose to Oklahoma. With Texas being the No. 2 revenue school, the Longhorns do not have time to see if Strong is the right man for the job. It’s a win-now-or-else situation at places like that because of the high-priced stakes of the job.
It does not matter If the coach like Helfrich at Oregon or Gus Malzahn at Auburn (No. 11 revenue school at $124,657,247) recently coached in or won the national championship game. One series of poor performances in only one season or two can lead to a potential pink slip.
These coaches become a victim of the monster they helped create.
Ohio State, Michigan and Alabama are the Nos. 4 through 6 revenue programs in the nation and their coaches are giving those programs a tremendous return on their investment. But make no mistake, if Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh and, yes, Nick Saban, go through a couple of two- or three-loss seasons, their job would be on the line.
The saying, “Money can’t buy you love,” extends to college football.