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November 28, 2012

Jacobs undeterred by high-priced coaches

AUBURN, Ala. – In a span of four years, Tommy Tuberville and Gene Chizik are billing Auburn more than $12 million in buyout money.

That figure will be subsidized if and when Chizik accepts future employment elsewhere, but still, it’s a hefty set of paydays for coaches not working for the university.

Auburn’s not alone. According to research by USA Today’s Dan Wolken – utilizing the newspaper’s coaching salary database – six SEC schools have changed coaches, costing them a combined $26.5 million in severance packages.

“It definitely heightens the pressure to win. There’s more money at stake in terms of ticket revenue and bowl revenue and TV revenue and advertisements,” Nathaniel Grow, an assistant professor legal studies in Georgia’s Terry College of Business, told the Ledger-Enquirer last week.

“You maximize the revenue through winning, so definitely it has caused a more pressure-packed environment for coaches at high-level programs like this. And then, relatedly, it definitely puts more pressure on administrators, the athletic director, maybe all the way up to the university president to have a winning football program, make sure the fans are satisfied with the direction of the program.”

Athletic director Jay Jacobs isn’t worried about the dollars and cents of this next hire, pointing out the spending in college football has never been higher.

“We won’t avoid candidates seeking a buyout if it’s the right candidate for Auburn,” Jacobs said Sunday. “Talking about the buyout, you have to remember on our side, back when we negotiated Gene’s contract after the 2010 year, it was the first national championship in 53 years. He was 22-5. I believe at the time, he was in the top 15 in buyouts. This year’s buyout, I’m not sure it’s even in the top 20.

“That’s the market in which we are living. We are going to go out and get the best candidate possible. Whatever is necessary to make it work, we will make it work.”

Fond memories: Junior defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker recounted his earlier memories of Chizik, as a recruit out of Warner Robins (Ga.) High School.

“I actually told coach Chizik I wasn’t coming to Auburn. All right?” said Whitaker, who was also selecting from Georgia and Miami. “So I’m like,  ‘Hey, listen, I’m not coming, I thank you.’ And he kept calling me in the car, so I was ignoring him. He went on my answering machine, he said, ‘Listen, I don’t’ care if you keep ignoring me, I’m going to keep calling you. They’re going to have to put me in the box because I’m going to bring you to Auburn.’

“We ended up talking and I remember him coming to my high school, and coming in with his head up proud, met everybody, shook hands with everybody.”

Man up: Jacobs was asked Sunday if he had a preference between an offensive or defensive coordinator.

“Not really. Just physical,” Jacobs said. “Statistically speaking, the defensive teams get to the SEC championship. Now you see all the spread offenses and all the people scoring points. Can you find a fine balance for that?”

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