St. Patrick's Day economics in the Big Ten

March, 17, 2009
3/17/09
3:03
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Whether you root for the Maize and Blue, the Scarlet and Gray or the Black and Gold, the most important color in college football is ultimately green. Money drives the sport, and every Big Ten team faces key decisions in how to allocate its funds. 

Keeping with our green theme on St. Pat's Day, here's a look at money well spent and not so well spent in the Big Ten. 

GREEN MEANS GO

Mark Dantonio's new contract -- Michigan State needed to give Dantonio a bump after he stabilized the program in his first two seasons as head coach. His revised deal is somewhat of a bargain, at least according to today's salary standards, and should keep Dantonio in East Lansing for a while longer. 

TCF Bank Stadium -- It's a tough economic time to build a new stadium, but Minnesota had to get an on-campus facility after a quarter-century of mediocrity at the Metrodome. TCF Bank Stadium is a truly unique venue that will give Minnesota a much needed campus presence and validate the $288.5 million price tag. 

Illinois' stadium renovation -- Illinois wants to raise its profile in football, and the renovation of a stadium that had charm, but frankly looked very old, was an essential move. The architects maintained the integrity of Memorial Stadium but made overdue upgrades in several areas, namely the student section in the north end zone and, ahem, the press box. 

FEELING GREEN

Guarantee games -- The Big Ten isn't the only league guilty of scheduling too many of these, but it doesn't do much to fix the problem. Big stadiums and the reluctance to part with home games leaves many Big Ten teams with watered-down nonconference schedules that might make athletic departments money but costs the teams on the field and the fans in the stands. 

Bonuses for Wisconsin coaches -- This isn't a knock on the Badgers coaches as much as it is an indictment of the low benchmarks in Wisconsin's Exceptional Achievement Award Policy. Wisconsin's football coaches received more than $250,000 in bonuses -- head coach Bret Bielema pocketed $100,000 -- after the team finished an extremely disappointing 2008 season by reaching a lower-tier bowl game. The explanations behind the policy are downright lame. 

Rich Rodriguez's baggage -- Rodriguez could turn out to be an excellent investment for Michigan, but so far he has been more of a financial burden. Last year, Michigan paid $4.1 million to cover part of Rodriguez's buyout from West Virginia and $2.5 million in salary to the coach. That worked out to $2.2 million per Wolverines win. 

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