Appropriate Contracts

This week, Mike Shula got a token and Mark Gottfried got a reward. That's what happened when the University of Alabama Board of Trustees and UA athletic director Mal Moore handed out contract extensions, and exactly what should have happened.

Shula, the Tide's third-year head football coach, got a one-year extension to his current deal, pushing it through the 2009 season, but received no pay raise or changes in his total compensation package of $900,000 per year.

Gottfried, entering his eighth season as Alabama's head men's basketball coach, got his contract extended through 2011 and received a nice $200,000 raise – to $1 million per year – pushing him past Shula on the pay scale and making him UA's highest-paid coach.

His raise makes Alabama a rarity in SEC circles – one of three schools where the men's basketball coach makes more than the head football coach.

That might raise a few eyebrows, considering the other two are Kentucky and Vanderbilt, but the truth is this:

Gottfried earned his raise and contract extension with sustained success.

Shula simply hasn't done that yet.

Step back for a moment and compare the two young coaches' resumes.

Gottfried, 41, has been a head coach for 10 years – seven at Alabama (143-83) and three at Murray State (68-24). He has made six trips to the NCAA Tournament – two at Murray State and the past four seasons at Alabama – and three trips to the NIT, two of those coming at MSU and one at Alabama.

He has brought a dead hoops program back to life, both on and off the court. He's packed thousands of fans into Coleman Coliseum – 10,958 per game in 2004-05. And he's graduated the last 18 players who have completed their eligibility, a huge accomplishment in the court-first, academics-second world of college basketball.

Shula, 40, has been a head coach for two years, both at Alabama.

He's won 10 games and lost 15. Of those 10 wins, five have come against SEC schools – Ole Miss once and Kentucky and Mississippi State twice. Against Auburn, Arkansas, LSU and Tennessee, he is a combined 0-8.

He has no winning seasons and one bowl berth – a 20-16 loss to Minnesota in the Music City Bowl.

Do those stats sound like accomplishments which have earned a raise?

Heck no.

Shula is on his way upward, but hasn't earned such praise yet. A little over two years ago, he inherited the mess left behind by the NCAA, Dennis Franchione, Mike Price and some strippers in Pensacola, Fla.

And he's done a decent job.

His teams have generally been competitive, if not great, and Shula and staff have reeled in consecutive recruiting classes hailed in the top 15 nationally by most analysts.

Discipline problems have been few and far between, a claim that Georgia, South Carolina or Tennessee fans certainly can't make.

And Shula certainly stepped into a huge mess. He got the worst of the NCAA probation, which stripped 21 scholarships from the program from 2002-04. His first team had no hopes of postseason play, took the field with a hastily slapped-together game plan and played like it.

And last year, season-ending knee injuries took out the entire starting backfield of quarterback Brodie Croyle, halfback Ray Hudson and fullback Tim Castille, while a groin injury sapped star tailback Kenneth Darby over the final quarter of the season.

When you step back and examine 2004 objectively, 6-6 was a pretty decent result, considering what Shula and Co. had to work with.

Shula is learning on the job, and while he isn't personality-plus like Gottfried, he's a decent guy who is making the best of a bad situation.

A year's extension at his current salary is a nice bonus that will stop his rivals from harping on his future, at least until they find something else to harp on.

And if he enjoys big-time success over the next two years, Moore has left little doubt that he'll reward Shula.

Remember, Dennis Franchione had 17 wins in two seasons, and he left a guaranteed 10-year, $15 million contract sitting on the table when he flew off to Texas A&M.

If Shula wins big-time, he'll pass Gottfried on the salary scale soon enough.

Now just isn't the right time.

The man who patrols Coleman Coliseum has earned his day atop the salary scale.

The latest guy to prowl Bryant-Denny Stadium's sidelines just needs to be patient.

Greg Wallace is the Alabama beat writer for the Birmingham Post-Herald. He writes a weekly column for BamaMag.com


BamaMag Top Stories