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NCF Nation: green money 090317

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

The SEC has never been shy about spending the green.

Green Day
College Football Nation is decked out in green to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. While you can't tell if our bloggers actually are wearing the day's color, their posts are green from head to toe.

Green with envy: Teams
Green with envy: Conferences
Who could use a four-leaf clover?
What is your teams' greenest unit?
Best/worst spent green

It's a virtual arms race in this league to see who can build the biggest stadiums, the fanciest football complexes and the swankiest luxury suites.

Six of the 12 head coaches in the SEC (Nick Saban, Les Miles, Urban Meyer, Bobby Petrino, Mark Richt and Houston Nutt) make $2.5 million or more per year, and one assistant (Monte Kiffin) stands to earn $1.5 million this season.

It's always nice when you have so much money you don't know what to do with it all.

So with money being such a hot topic in our current downtrodden economic climate, let's take a look at where the green is best and worst spent in the SEC:

BEST SPENT GREEN

Nick Saban's eight-year, $32 million contract: Yes, that's an obscene amount of money to pay any college coach, but look what he's done in just two years. Alabama is relevant again and bringing in the kind of recruiting classes that win championships.

Florida's Heavener football complex: From the plush coaches' offices, to the expanded weight room, to the Gateway of Champions entering the building, the Gators have done it up right with their new $28 million complex, which was privately funded by 16 donors.

Bobby Johnson's raise: When Johnson talked with Duke last offseason about its head coaching job, Vanderbilt responded by sweetening Johnson's deal and committing to more upgrades in facilities. It's the best investment the Commodores could have made.

WORST SPENT GREEN

Phillip Fulmer's new contract: Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton awarded Fulmer with a raise and extension after the Vols went to the SEC Championship Game in 2007. But Hamilton turned around and fired Fulmer last season, and as part of that new contract, had to pay him a $6 million parting gift.

Auburn's new basketball arena: Granted, we're not talking hoops here. But why spend any money on a new basketball arena when only a few thousand people are coming anyway when you could spruce up Jordan-Hare Stadium?

Salaries for South Carolina's offensive coaches last season: How is it that a Steve Spurrier-coached team could be so unproductive on offense? The Gamecocks were difficult to watch on offense in 2008. Maybe that's why everybody on the offensive side of the ball is gone from that staff with the exception of Steve Spurrier Jr.

Spread the wealth

March, 17, 2009
3/17/09
3:12
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Everyone is concerned about their wallets in these struggling economic times, and St. Patrick's Day is the perfect time for a fiscal review of how the ACC is spending its green. Here are three good -- and three not-so-good -- ways of spending or saving the green:

1. Whip-ing Miami's offense into shape -- However much green was spent to bring in offensive coordinator Mark Whipple was worth it. Regardless of how Miami's offense fared on the field, clearly Patrick Nix and Randy Shannon weren't on the same page when it came to philosophy. Shannon and Whipple are.

2. Upgrade in Durham -- David Cutcliffe gave his football team a makeover, now it's time to do the same with the facilities. The practice field, which looked like it was used by the local parks and rec department, is getting an overhaul. The artificial turf field is being extended from about 75 yards to 120 yards, and the school is currently rebuilding the visiting locker room. In the stadium, two bathrooms and a concession stand are being renovated.

3. Robbing Peter to pay Paul -- While it might seem a little premature to make Paul Johnson one of the highest-paid coaches in the conference before he's even won a league title, the Yellow Jackets can't win the ACC crown unless they dish out the money to keep him. Kudos to athletic director Dan Radakovich for staying competitive with the SEC salaries.

4. The cost of offense in College Park -- In 2006, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen bought a $240,000 Pro Simulator, a complex computer program designed to help the athletes learn the playbook and read defenses in real-time. Considering Maryland hasn't finished better than sixth in the ACC in scoring offense since then -- including ninth in 2008 -- they might want to stick with Madden.

5. Commonwealth Cup overfloweth in Charlottesville -- Virginia Tech can't let rival Virginia get away with paying Al Groh more. Not when Frank Beamer is winning a BCS bowl and Groh is home for the holidays. It's time for athletic director Jim Weaver to ante up.

6. Spread the wealth -- Is Miami really in such a financial hole it needs to bus to the in-state games this year? Other coaches are sure to use even that tiny detail against the school in recruiting because it doesn't project the image of a big-time program.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

We continue to work the green angle on St. Patrick's Day.

Up next: money.

In this economy, we all wish we had some more. So who's spent their money well? And poorly?

WELL SPENT

Pete Carroll's salary: No football coach has ever made $4.4 million a year. No other football coach has played in seven consecutive BCS bowl games. And won six of them.

Oregon's facilities: Crack wise about sugar daddy Phil Knight's exorbitant patronage, but just about any program in the country would trade facilities with the Ducks.

Mike Riley's salary: Riley makes about $1 million a year, which ranks in the bottom third of the Pac-10. Meanwhile, the Beavers have won 28 games over the past three seasons, each of which concluded with a ranking in the Top 25. And don't even get us started on his first-rate -- and incredibly loyal -- staff.

POORLY SPENT

Washington's investment in Tyrone Willingham: The Huskies paid Willingham a guaranteed $1.47 million annually for four seasons. So he got roughly $5.88 million for 11 wins. And that doesn't include the $1 million he was paid to go away.

The Arizona State bubble: Arizona State built an $8.4 million indoor practice facility to escape the summer heat, but it lasted only a few weeks before an August storm blew the 103,500-square-foot climate-controlled bubble over, causing roughly $1 million in damage. The bubble, however, is up and running again and apparently again full of healthy refrigerated air.

Oregon's NexTurf: Oregon, wanting to be different from schools across the country -- including the hated Washington Huskies -- that were using FieldTurf in their stadiums, replaced the horrible OmniTurf surface at Autzen Stadium with NeXturf in 2001 at a cost of $1.35 million. The next year, during stadium expansion, the Ducks admitted they made a mistake and replaced the NeXturf with FieldTurf at a cost of around $900,000.

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. 

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

As we wrap up our St. Patrick's Day green theme today, it's time to talk about the green that's most important to us all: money.

Cash is king, and though the Big East hasn't gotten quite as caught up in the astronomical arms race as leagues such as the SEC, how you spend often correlates to how much you win.

Here's a look at the best/worst spent green in the Big East, from top to bottom.

Best

Brian Kelly's salary: Kelly got a raise after the 2007 season that guaranteed him between $1.2 million and $1.35 million for five years. He's about to sign a new one-year extension that will likely increase his pay more. So far, he's been worth every penny to Cincinnati.

West Virginia's assistants: The Mountaineers saved money on the switch from Rich Rodriguez ($1.7 million annual salary) to Bill Stewart ($800,000). Much of the savings went to increasing the pay of the assistants, including a $400,000 per-year deal for associate head coach/recruiting coordinator Doc Holliday and a big raise for defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. Holliday led a recruiting effort that landed one of West Virginia's highest-rated classes ever on signing day, while Casteel continues to command one of the league's best defenses.

Randy Edsall's contract: Connecticut was in a tizzy recently over basketball coach Jim Calhoun's response to an activist's question about his salary. Edsall is paid handsomely, too, earning more than $1.3 million annually. But as the architect of the Huskies' program and one of the best pure coaches in the Big East or anywhere else, Edsall need not give a dime back.

Questionable

Jim Leavitt's deal: Before the 2008 season, South Florida gave Leavitt a seven-year, $12.6 million contract that made him the Big East's highest-paid coach. There's no doubt that Leavitt earned his keep by elevating this program from scratch. But given the coach's sometimes erratic behavior, the Bulls' mediocre conference finishes and the school's lack of easily available cash, this contract has the potential to become an albatross down the line.

Louisville's stadium expansion: Adding on to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium seemed like a great idea during Louisville's Orange Bowl run. And eventually, the extra seats will only help the athletic department's bottom line. But given the apathy that has taken over the fan base, it's hard to imagine how the team will fill the extra space when the $70 million project is finished for the 2010 season.

Worst

Greg Robinson's buyout: Robinson still had a year left on his deal and was owed $1.1 million when he was fired by Syracuse. Because Syracuse is a private school and not subject to open records laws, exact details of his settlement are unknown. But whatever he got for his disastrous tenure with the Orange was too much.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

St. Patrick's Day is as good as any other day to determine which decisions qualify as money well spent --  as well as those that do not.

Here's a list of three appropriations I think help Big 12 schools and three that aren't as smart.

GOOD MONEY

  • Bob Stoops' contract: Sure, he's making more money than almost any coach in the nation. But he's been able to lead a renaissance in the sport's athletic department that harkens back to the Bud Wilkinson era. And he's been the Big 12's most consistent winner with six conference championships in his tenure. To me, he's a bargain -- even while making more than $6 million per year after bonuses in 2008. 
  • Bo Pelini's contract: It's hard to think of any coach as being underpaid. But in the grand scheme of things, Pelini's current $1.1 million yearly contract would seem to do so. He's steered the Cornhuskers back into relevance in the Big 12 North and appears to have them pointed that way for many years. For that matter, he might be a good bargain even with a sizable contract hike.  
  • Mega Scoreboards at Big 12 stadiums: Sure, they are garish. But Texas started a revolution among Big 12 schools with the creation of "Godzillatron," the massive high-definition scoreboard that makes watching a game at Royal Memorial Stadium almost like watching it from your living room. Texas A&M, Oklahoma and now Nebraska have soon followed with their own versions. These scoreboards keep spectators entertained and still provide revenue for their schools. Sounds like a good match to me.

BAD MONEY

  • Out of state recruiting budgets for Texas schools: There's a reason why the lobbies at some Dallas and Houston high schools resemble a college coaching clinic on some days during the recruiting period. The Texas area is one of the most fertile in the nation and the backbone of all the Big 12's recruiting. It makes little to no sense for Texas Big 12 schools to even consider venturing outside the state for players. They can find nearly anything they want close to home.
  • The addition of "The Zone" at Kyle Field: Sure, the extra seats are beneficial for certain big games and look nice on television. But along with the Aggies' recent downturn, all of those additional seats have served as an anchor to the school's season-ticket market.
  • Bill Callahan and Steve Pederson's contract buyouts at Nebraska: Even with Bo Pelini's quick turnaround of the Cornhuskers' football program during his first season, the Cornhuskers will end up paying more than $5.325 million over the next several years to their deposed former athletic director and football coach. That's a lot of personal-seat licenses and luxury box revenue -- especially in these challenging economic times.
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

Everyone's worried about money these days, and since St. Patrick's Day emphasizes the color green, we thought we'd explore the best and worst ways some teams have spent their green over the years.

Which coaches were worth the money and which teams haven't gotten a return on their investment?

BEST GREEN SPENT

• TCU extended coach Gary Patterson's contract through 2014 after several schools courted him this offseason. Although his salary is undisclosed, Patterson likely makes more than any other non-AQ coach. But with 73 wins in his first 100 games, it's money well spent.

• Florida International coach Mario Cristobal is on the low side in terms of coaching salaries, which makes him a steal for FIU. In just two years, he's taken a Golden Panthers team from 0-12 to 5-7. And now he's getting some top-name recruits.

• Buffalo was close to losing coach Turner Gill this offseason, but gave him a contract extension and a raise to keep him with the school until 2013. Gill is 15-23 in his three seasons with the Bulls, but he led them to an 8-6 record in 2008, which included the school's first conference championship and the first-ever bowl game.

WORST GREEN SPENT

• No one knows exactly what Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis makes, but his results on the field haven't been worth the chunk of change he's owed. He's 29-21 in four seasons, but the Irish have lost 15 games the past two years, the most by Notre Dame in a two-year span.

• San Diego State is paying former coach Chuck Long $700,000 a year for "projects" and "analysis" until his contract ends on Dec. 31, 2010. That means SDSU will have paid Long about $1.4 million since he was fired. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Long's contract stated that if he was fired, he'd be reassigned within the school.

• UNLV gave coach Mike Sanford a three-year contract extension after the Rebels finished 5-7, their best season since 2003. But Sanford has an 11-36 record with the Rebels, and prior to this season he had won only two games per season since 2005.

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