A Look At Coaching In The Current Climate

There is no more hot button issue with a fan base and an athletic administration in basketball than the head coach when the issues of fan support, expectations, salaries, buyouts, and budgets all come together. What is fair? Let's start with expectations. Should fans feel that an NCAA berth should be a given each year? How about NCAA Tournament wins? How about consistent Sweet 16 finishes?

I think much of that depends on each school's situation, where the program is and how much the athletic department depends on it. How much do you pay your head coach is another definite factor because it's like anything else. If a man walks down the street in Gucci shoes there is a different expectation than if he is walking in a pair of Hush Puppies.

There is no greater example of that than at Duke where Mike Krzyzewski reigns supreme and commands a salary of $9.6 million for a program that pulls in a bottom line profit of $12.8 million. By comparison, Duke football coach David Cutcliffe, who has done a good job making something out of nothing with Blue Devil football, receives an annual salary of $1.8 million. That is the Division I extreme.

It should be no surprise that Kentucky, Kansas, and Louisville follow suit on similar differences between basketball and football. At Kentucky, John Calipari pulls in $5.5 million a year compared to Mark Stoops, who receives $2.7 million.

Down the road at rival Louisville, Rick Pitino makes $5.7 million a year while Bobby Petrino receives $3.0 million. Kansas head coach for hoops Bill Self receives $4.9 million and new football coach David Beaty has a mainly incentive based contract that pays a base salary of $800,000.

Below are a couple of other schools that are worth a comparison.

Oklahoma State: Mike Gundy/football $3.5 million - Travis Ford/basketball $2.45 million
Michigan State: Mark Dantonio/football $5 million - Tom Izzo/basketball $3.4 million
North Carolina: Larry Fedora/football $1.8 million - Roy Williams/basketball $1.8 million
Arizona: Rich Rodriguez/football $2.9 million - Sean Miller/basketball $2.2 million
Oklahoma: Bob Stoops/football $5.1 million - Lon Kruger/basketball $2.2 million
Texas: Charlie Strong/football $5 million - Rick Barnes/basketball $2.55 million
Iowa State: Paul Rhoads/football $1.8 million - Fred Hoiberg/basketball $1.6 million
Memphis: Justin Fuente/football $1 million - Josh Pastner/basketball $2.65 million

That's just a few. In case you are wondering, and I was, what does a guy like Gregg Marshall make at Wichita State where basketball is king of all with no football on campus? Marshall's salary is listed at $1.7 million base. The comfort at Wichita State is he really has to compete with Northern Iowa and that is it in the Missouri Valley as far as battling for supremacy season in and season out.

In the Big 12 times have changed. Now a veteran and highly respected coach like Rick Barnes at Texas has to worry about job security because besides Bill Self at Kansas, Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State, and Lon Kruger at Oklahoma there is Bob Huggins, a future Hall of Fame coach leading West Virginia, and Texas Tech hired a big-time coach a year ago to overhaul their program in Tubby Smith.

Baylor, Oklahoma State, and TCU prove that all the conference programs are solid. It's not like it was 10 or so years ago when the conference first formed and there were some bottom feeders in basketball. TCU, Kansas State, and Texas Tech are the bottom feeders now and they aren't as bad as the grunge of the league was a decade ago.

With 10 teams in the league and the ability to play a double round-robin, every school home and away, that proves much more of a grind. In football, it is once each season, but in basketball it is twice and it makes the conference season very rough.

I was told the other day that one athletic director in the conference was asked about the job security of Rick Barnes after the Longhorns lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Butler. That individual replied that Barnes' team made the NCAA and you can't fire a coach after he makes the tournament. I would tend to agree.

I'm not stupid and I'm not stuck with my head in the sand. I understand that a number of Oklahoma State fans aren't happy and want more out of basketball. Why not? I believe you should strive to be good at everything.

I also believe you have to have your set of priorities, and for the first time in the school's existence as a member of a power conference and after a history or not having the right priorities, Oklahoma State has it right. Football is the premier sport and you absolutely have to be good in it to matter.

Oklahoma State has been and needs to continue to make that priority number one. There are other sports still in need of facilities, a new baseball stadium and a new soccer stadium at the same venue are on the planning board as is more work to the new track facility. I am concerned about all of those needs and projects.

I am aware of how difficult winning in Big 12 basketball can be and all I can do is hope that decisions made are based on good, sound judgment and the need to be a football power and reward success in other sports at the same time.

Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford has made five NCAA Tournaments in his seven years as coach. His win/loss record in NCAA Tournament play for the Cowboys as coach is 1-5. He made the tournament this season with a squad not projected to be there. I found him to highly accessible and very accommodating as a member of the media.

His team won some games they were not supposed to and lost some they were not supposed to. They did it in a league that is full of good coaches and, whether or not the tournament results backed it up or not, was rated the most difficult conference in college basketball.

Now, Terry Tush brought up this and it is not an indictment, but just a record of fact. His finishes in the Big 12 Conference in regular season are as follows:
2008-09, 4th 9-7 (tied with Texas, Texas A&M and Kansas State, and also a 12-team league)
2009-10, 6th 9-7 (tied with Texas, and also a 12-team league)
2010-11, 9th 6-10 (12-team league)
2011-12, 7th 7-11
2012-13, 3rd 13-5 (one game out of first)
2013-14, 8th 8-10
2014-15, 6th 8-10 (tied with Texas and Kansas State for sixth place)

There is no defining decision here, no decision at all, just some thoughts of where college basketball and college basketball coaching is in the Big 12 and the current Division I climate. In my mind they are some things to think about.

If it ever gets to more than talking then in this conference with a program like this there is no search. If you initiate a change then there better had be a veteran coach with a strong track record against similar competition already committed to moving to your institution.

These are different days in college athletics where the investment and price to compete is not modest but very rich. That means decisions had better be rock solid because in many cases more than basketball is at stake, and unless you are Duke or Kentucky where your basketball program can pay your athletic department bills then you don't want to make a move that can jeopardize your standing overall.

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