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What's the right way to divide staff payroll?

It's time for a hypothetical. You - yes, you - have just been named the head coach of a BCS institution. Congratulations! Now it's time to get to work, and your first order of business is divvying out your staff's $4.8 million payroll. 

What's your plan?

You could follow the common path that the majority of BCS programs take. We pulled two mid-tier BCS programs and one decidedly upper-tier program out of a hat and took a snapshot of their collective staff payrolls.

One interesting note, each of our three randomly selected head coaches raked in around 55 percent of the total salary pot

  Mississippi State  Virginia  Ohio State 
Head coach  $2.6 million $2.55 million $4.25 million
Assistant $308,000 $458,350 $761,000
Assistant $287,700 $397,300 $456,000
Assistant $282,625 $224,450 $426,000
Assistant $282,625 $190,500 $357,800
Assistant $231,875 $187,450 $286,200
Assistant $226,800 $179,546 $282,500
Assistant $225,000 $179,496 $281,500
Assistant $223,500 $174,550 $281,000
Assistant $140,525 $174,496 $156,000

(All figures courtesy of the USA Today coaching salary database.)

Of course, the costs don't end with the head coach and his assistants. You've got a director of football operations making anywhere from $50,000 - $125,000 a year, a director of player personnel nowadays making around $75,000, a few graduate assistants pulling in $24,000, and other staff members in between. As positions like football operations and player personnel professionals become more and more ubiquitous throughout college football, some guys make more than the numbers we quoted in the previous sentence, and some guys make much less. Salaries for those jobs are more varied than, say, your running backs coach, but that doesn't mean they're any less important.

This leads to our question: what is the right way to do it? The head coach should always be the highest-paid guy in the room, but does he really need 20 times the salary of his cornerbacks coach? Is that the best way to serve your staff, your team, your school and ultimately your own job security? Maybe the status quo became that way for good reason, or maybe a guy like Dabo Swinney makes a smart move for his team and his own job security by taking a little less for himself and splurging on his coordinators.

If you became a BCS head coach today, what percentage of the pie would you feed yourself?

40 percent?
50 percent?
60 percent?

So let's look at a few hypothetical allocations (all assuming a total pool for HC + nine assistants) of a total $4.8 million pool (approximately what Mississippi State and Virginia are working with).

Head Coach's allocation 40% 50% 60%
Head Coach's salary $1,920,000 $2,400,000 $2,880,000
Salary Pool for 9 assistants  $2,880,000 $2,400,000 $1,920,000
       
Coordinator 1 $400,000 $400,000 $350,000
Coordinator 2 $400,000 $400,000 $350,000
Coordinator 3 $300,000 $300,000 $250,000
Position Coach $296,000 $216,000 $161,000
Position Coach $296,000 $216,000 $161,000
Position Coach $296,000 $216,000 $161,000
Position Coach $296,000 $216,000 $161,000
Position Coach $296,000 $216,000 $161,000
Position Coach $296,000 $216,000 $161,000
Avg. Asst (of the 9) $320,000 $267,000 $213,000
HC's salary comp to Avg. Asst 6x 9x 13.5x

We don't know what the right answer is, but those sure are interesting numbers. The head coach who chooses 60 percent of the pool (vs. 40 percent) is effectively taking $107,000 away from every assistant coach on his staff. Think about that. Think about the quality of the staff you can hire for an average salary of $320,000 compared to the staff you can hire for an average of $213,000. 

Back to the hypothetical. You're a brand new head coach, and you've got to fill out your first staff. What do you do? Which path do you take?

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