Pac-12 coaches: Best bang for the buck

July, 11, 2012
7/11/12
9:00
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ESPN.com's series on FBS coaches continues with this question: Which coach in the Pac-12 provides the biggest bang for the buck?

That's tough to answer for a number of reasons.

  1. There are four new coaches in the Pac-12 this season.
  2. There were two new coaches last season.
  3. USC and Stanford, as private schools, don't provide salary information for their coaches, though USA Today reported that Lane Kiffin made $2.4 million in 2010, way less than had been widely reported.

Two years ago, it would have been easy to say that Oregon State's Mike Riley provided the most bang for the buck. Riley won 36 games from 2006-09 before the Beavers tumbled to consecutive losing seasons. And he did that with a fairly modest salary.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezChip Kelly may be the Pac-12's highest-paid coach, but he's worth the money.
Here are the latest numbers.
Chip Kelly, Oregon, $2.8 million

Lane Kiffin, USC, $2.4 million*

Jim Mora, UCLA, $2.4 million**

Jeff Tedford, California, $2.3 million

Steve Sarkisian, Washington, $2.25 million

Mike Leach, Washington State, $2.25 million

Todd Graham, Arizona State, $2 million

Kyle Whittingham, Utah, $2 million

Rich Rodriguez, Arizona, $1.91 million

Mike Riley, Oregon State, $1,313,471

Jon Embree, Colorado, $725,000
*It's perfectly reasonable to posit that Kiffin made more than this in 2011 and also will in 2012.

**Mora's number is an average of his five-year, $12 million contract. He'll likely make less than this figure this season.

By the way, David Shaw's salary at Stanford has been estimated at $1.75 million. It seems, in any event, that it's too early to rate Shaw and Colorado's Embree as second-year coaches. And it makes no sense to look at the track record of the four new coaches, because the past doesn't mean anything for the new schools, though you could say Arizona got Rodriguez at below market value.

So who provides the most bang for the buck? I have two answers: Whittingham and Kelly.

Why? Well, name the two coaches on the above list who have won BCS bowl games at their present job.

Whittingham is 66-25 (.725) at Utah, including double-digit wins in three of the past four seasons. His worst season in seven years was 7-5 in 2005. After an 0-4 start in Pac-12 play last fall, he rallied his team behind a backup QB who transferred from Nebraska-Omaha, and the Utes nearly won the South Division. Oh, and he's 7-1 in bowl games.

Further, Whittingham has been loyal to Utah. He's had opportunities to leave but he's stuck around.

Kelly is the Pac-12's highest-paid coach by a fairly wide margin. He was guaranteed $2.8 million in 2011 and will make $3.5 million this season, according to USA Today. So why does he rate highly in terms of bang for the buck? Well, there's a 34-6 (.850) record, including a 25-2 mark in Pac-12 games (.926). And there are three consecutive conference titles. And an undefeated regular season in 2010, after which the Ducks fell just short of beating Auburn for the national title. And there's the Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin in January.

Kelly has delivered a super-elite level of performance in his three seasons. If you were to name the nation's best coaches, you wouldn't have to wait long after Nick Saban and Urban Meyer to get to Kelly.

He gets big bucks, yes, but he has delivered unprecedented bang to the Ducks' program.

Any Oregon fans think he's overpaid?

Ted Miller | email

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