by Tony Basilo
Last week in this space we juxtaposed the sports world with the real world. So here's another try, in the spirit of Rod Delmonico. Rocket Rod was the last coach to feel the wrath of The Mighty Mike Hamilton. This means that Phillip Fulmer now goes on the clock.
As we discussed this reality on my radio show (Fulmer for the first time in his career being the next to go, if there is a next ), I was approached by a Fulmer loyalist off the air who made the point that Tennessee's head football coach was a bargain in today's college football marketplace. I flinched and said something to the effect of, â“You're crazy!â” Then I looked up the pay of some of the top head coaches in college football, and the guy had a point. A pretty darn strong one at that.
Fulmer was one of college football's first $2 million men. His lifetime record of 137-41 nets him a winning percentage of 77 percent. That's the best mark of any active coach with 10-plus years of service at any school in America. The reality is that Fulmer is going on 10 years without a conference championship and nine years void of a BCS appearance. Still, his national title back in '98 was the only one for Tennessee in the modern era (1968-present) of college football. This has to count for something since the essence of competition is winning it all. So is Phillip Fulmer at $2.25 million per year underpaid?
Full disclosure: Major college football coaches are way overpaid. The burden placed upon fans is an unfair one and goes deeper than just market forces that define professional sports. Professional sports are just thatâ"professionalâ"whereas college sports are supposed to be about education and athletics with the emphasis on â“student-athletes.â” This established, remember we're dealing with the â“sports worldâ” in this article, not the way things should be, but as they are.
Fulmer's current salary ranks him 10th among active coaches. Of the coaches in front of him, only six have won national titles. Of the nine ranked ahead of him, I would take only a handful of guys to lead my program before him. Pete Carroll at USC, Mack Brown at Texas and Jim Tressel of Ohio State are no-brainers over Fulmer. All deserve to make more.
Nick Saban's $4 million per year deal at Alabama is ludicrous. He was on the verge of being a miserable failure at Miami when he pulled the plug and ran. For his troubles and the mess he left behind, he became the highest paid coach in the history of college football with an incentive-laden contract that will have a deleterious effect on the future of college football. Compared to this guy's contract that calls for an additional 60K just for making a bowl game, and perks like 100K for finishing in the top 25 percent of the SEC in graduation rate, Tennessee is getting a bargain with Fulmer.
Kirk Ferentz is stealing $2.8 million per year from Iowa. His nine-year record with the Hawkeyes is a below average 55-43. In '02 he led Iowa to the Orange Bowl where they were spanked by USC 38-17. That's the last BCS appearance for Iowa, which has played in the Outback Bowl, Capital One Bowl, Outback Bowl and the Alamo Bowl, going only 2-2 in those games. This decade, his teams have been 3-9 in '00, 6-5 in '01, 11-1 in '02, 9-3 in '03, 9-2 in '04, 7-4 in '05, and 6-6 last year. So, how does a guy like this rise to this level of pay? Leverage. Ferentz is an NFL darling who has ridden some professional interest to an incomprehensible annual salary. Compared to this clown, Fulmer is underpaid.
Charlie Weis makes a little over $3 million per year at Notre Dame. Why? Tom Brady. Three Super Bowl rings as the offensive coordinator with the New England Patriots were parlayed into the Catholic edition of Powerball. A '78 graduate of Notre Dame, Weis has led the Irish to two consecutive BCS Bowls. This ties Fulmer's career output. Still, he's at Notre Dame where a 9-2 regular season in '05 and 10-2 in '06 are sufficient for BCS consideration. Nine- and 10-win seasons at most places mean a pretty good bowl game, but not BCS appearances. Can Weis kick it up a notch and win it all? He'll have to before he can be worth as much money as Fulmer.
Tommy Tuberville turned a coup de Bob attempt of former protÃ©gÃ© Bobby Petrino (now with the Falcons) into a sweet deal at Auburn. With a contract in excess of $2.5 million per year, Tuberville is set for life, even if his lifetime accomplishments don't measure up. Sure Auburn won the SEC Championship in '04, beating Tennessee in Atlanta. Still, Tuberville remains a solid coach with solid, yet not outstanding, credentials. Tuberville's eight-year mark at Auburn is only 71-29. A .710 winning percentage and only one conference championship in nearly a decade is barely getting it done at Auburn.
In the real world, Phillip Fulmer might already be searching for another job. In the realm of college football, UT's head coach might just be underpaid. Take the emotion out of it, and you know it's true.
Tune in and talk sports with Tony Basilio weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on ESPN Radio WVLZ 1180 AM. Visit www.tonybasilio.com for more information.
All content © 2007 Metropulse .