The number of assistant coaches earning $250,000 or more is on the rise, particularly in the SEC, but what strikes me is the Big Ten's absence among the very top earners. No Big Ten assistant ranks among the top 10 nationally in salary and only Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino ($475,250) ranks in the top 30 in earnings. The SEC, meanwhile, has 14 assistants among the top 30.
Don Treadwell was one of the Big Ten's best bargains last season at $235,250.
Are Big Ten assistants getting short-changed? Are Big Ten assistants inferior to those in the SEC? Why such a discrepancy?
I think the quality of coaching remains very high in the Big Ten and several assistants might want to get new agents. I also think that wild spending on assistant coaches is less a part of the culture in the Big Ten than it is in the SEC, Big 12 or even ACC. Will we ever see a Big Ten coordinator make more than $900,000, like Will Muschamp did at Texas, or more than $500,000? Perhaps we will, but I think it's doubtful.
There are also quite a few top assistants at big-time programs in the Big Ten who don't seem likely to make the jump to head-coaching positions elsewhere. While we've seen Big Ten assistants like Wisconsin's Dave Doeren and Ohio State's Darrell Hazell land top jobs this month, there aren't a ton of red-hot coaching prospects in the Big Ten.
It's interesting to see the discrepancy.
Who are the Big Ten's highest-paid assistants? Check 'em out:
(Note: As a private institution, Northwestern doesn't have to reveal coaches' salaries; Penn State declined to provide coaches' salary information.)
1. Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino (total compensation: $475,250, maximum bonus: $39,000)
2. Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst (total compensation: $361,094, maximum bonus: $122,500)
9. Ohio State assistant head coach/receivers coach Darrell Hazell (total compensation: $264,800, maximum bonus: $48,133)
10. Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe (total compensation: $260,524, maximum bonus: $0)
Nebraska's highest-paid assistants are offensive coordinator Shawn Watson ($380,000 salary, $130,833 maximum bonus) and defensive coordinator Carl Pelini ($375,000 salary, $129,375 maximum bonus).
Illinois' decision to spend big bucks for its new coordinators plays out here. It's interesting that for a defense-oriented league like the Big Ten, three of the four highest-paid assistants are offensive coordinators.
The Big Ten's biggest assistant coach bargain in 2010: Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell ($235,250), who led the team during coach Mark Dantonio's absence. All but one of Ohio State's assistants makes more than Treadwell.
Another major bargain is Wisconsin running backs coach John Settle ($129,792).