College recruiting is a tricky process. Unless you’re in the SEC or ACC, then it is more of a business, if you know what I mean. However, we are not here to talk about funneling money to players through churches. At least not today.
For the rest of the country, recruiting is a long convoluted process. On one side you have the high school athletes preparing to make a very important decision. On the other, recruiting coordinators trying to pitch their program in the best way possible. Every recruit’s specific needs are different, but there is usually a common thread. Recruits want to know that the coaching staff that brought them there will be around for the long haul. A perfectly reasonable concern.
NU President, Hank Bounds’ announcement of Mike Riley’s one year extension (through 2020) while controversial, makes sense for recruiting purposes. It shows incoming recruits that the staff will be around for the next four years. Extensions of this nature are common practice in modern college football. Yes, the timing of the announcement was a bit odd and most likely used as a subtle vote of confidence in Riley, as his extension was actually approved over the summer. Regardless, one year extensions with three years left on a coaches contract are pretty standard.
Common yes, but it does create an interesting conversation if we throw in a dash of hyperbole of course. What I am saying is that I am aware Mike Riley’s extension is not solely based on recruiting, But I know it is a substantial part of it. So I ask, is three million dollars (Mike Riley’s annual salary) too much money to spend for the sake of swaying possible recruits? When you phrase it that way, it changes the dynamic a bit.
I’m conflicted about Mike Riley getting a contract extension.
— Adam Carriker (@AdamCarriker94) September 13, 2017
My guess is most would say yes, that is a ridiculous amount of money to put into something that is not guaranteed. I would argue that there is really no choice. Regardless of performance, you have to keep up with the Joneses so to speak. If other programs are extending coaches contracts four years out to instill confidence in recruits, so must Nebraska right?
Truth is, extension or no extension, if things go south, like worse than 2015’s 6-7 south, then it would be awfully hard for Riley to actually make it through 2020. Keep in mind 2018’s schedule is a daunting one… Obviously an extension is a high risk financially, but almost a necessity if you are happy with the staff currently. Which President Hank Bounds and Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst have stated that they are.
Now we know the athletic department is self sustaining and very profitable, but still, three million is three million. Although, we have seen it before. Bill Callahan was fired four months after his contract was extended by Steve Pederson. More recently, Bo Pelini had his contract extended by Shawn Eichorst in March of 2014 and was fired in December of the same year.
So you could say that this three million dollar extension is hypothetically throwaway money right? History tells us this. That proposes an even more intriguing question. But first, take Riley out of the picture and go back to the end of 2014. Fans would often ask why not pony up the big bucks and get an elite level coach? If the program can throw contract extensions left and right with a terrible history of success. A streak spanning over the last 20 years, dating back to Frank Solich, who also had his contract extended before he was fired, then why not put that money into a “big name” hire?
Well the truth is that the program was actually fairly close to their ceiling at the time with Mike Riley’s 2.7 million dollar a year deal. Not to mention all the salaries of assistant coaches and staff. Oh yea, and the additional four years of Pelini’s contract left to pay at the time. Which will be finished in 2018 by the way.
In 2014, the athletic program profited 4.1 million dollars. Revenues broke 100 million for the first time in history, but expenses were not far behind. Realistically, had Nerbaska hired a coach in the area of four million a year (Urban Meyers initial OSU salary), the department would have nearly broke even. Assuming Meyer’s additional 1.3 million and his much more costly assistant coaches. Yes I know, 4.1 million is nothing to scoff at, but as a percentage of the total budget, one that exceeds 100 million, that number is fairly small.
However, the athletic department’s profit margin has steadily increased in that time and last year, the department profited 8.4 million. Doubling the previous years total. Now that the program is fully vested into the Big Ten, the profit margin will soar to new heights, as Nebraska should receive an additional 30 million in revenue on top of their previous 16 million from the conference.
In 2014, the big money, big name hire was somewhat of a stretch. In 2017 and beyond, that proposition is a definite reality. But we are not there yet. Mike Riley’s contract is extended through 2020 and we hope he can turn the corner in 2017. His extension serves many purposes, but mostly it will help with recruiting and time will tell if it pays off. Until then, cheer often and cheer loud. As always, love you guys.