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Just Askin' . . . Coaching staffs and more

So many questions, looking for answers.

Lots of money questions these days in the wake of USC running backs coach Tommie Robinson leaving for LSU and reuniting with his former Trojan compatriot, Ed Orgeron, and the apparent inability or unwillingness on USC's part to make a run to keep him here.

But before we get into the specifics of football staff salaries, and USC, how about opening on a bigger question cropping up in the world of NCAA and state/national politics right now -- for all sports, all states. A bit of a tangent but interesting, no less. Here's the deal.

Last week we reported how the NCAA was considering boycotting the state of North Carolina, removing all tournaments from the Tar Heel State for five years starting with this year. Just like that. Because the national organization doesn't agree with a North Carolina transgender bathroom law.

And California has jumped in line, decreeing that all state employees refrain from spending any money on paid business in four states -- Tennessee, Mississippi and Kansas in addition to North Carolina which could impact UCLA and Cal sports teams as soon as next year's Bruin return football game at Memphis. But here's the latest twist on this states' rights scenario.

Taking absolutely no political or ideological side here, we note that on the national level, newly confirmed U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and we quote from a Wall Street Journal story, is reportedly considering "backing away from an Obama administration initiative that directs schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of the sex with which they identify."

And again, totally apolitical and non-ideological and taking no side, we're Just Askin': If the U.S. government is about to take a stand that the NCAA and the state of California do not approve of and consider discriminatory, where does the NCAA play its tournaments and UCLA play its football and basketball games if the entire nation is deemed guilty of discrimination? Do they go off shore? Or become part of the Pac-12's outreach to Asia and the Pacific Rim? How does this work? . . . Again, we're Just Askin' here.

But enough about the rest of the world. We've got USC questions here. And we're looking for answers so it's back to the issue at hand for USC as we had last week when we said goodbye to the well-respected T-Rob for starters and then we'll enlarge on that point.

*** With Tommie leaving, was it the money that ultimately mattered? . . . Just Askin'.

*** Was USC really unable to come up with a raise or an extension from the relatively middle-of-the-road $335,000 salary Tommie was reportedly getting -- or was it something else? . . . Just Askin'.

*** Although we might wonder why is Tommie worth $265,000 a year more to LSU than to USC? Aren't they both trying to win the same national championship?. . . Just Askin'.

*** Or was this episode a statement from AD Lynn Swann to Clay Helton & Co., that OK, you may have luckily gotten things turned around at the end -- of the season, of the Rose Bowl win and in a top five recruiting run -- but I'll need a lot more than that from you before I start throwing money your way? . . . Just Askin'.

*** Not that USC was always watching its money quite so closely. Monte Kiffin was the highest paid assistant in college football history in 2012 when he was paid $1.5 million and Coach O, had he stayed over on the Steve Sarkisian staff, was apparently going to get the same salary as Monte as the highest paid assistant in college football. So wasn't the money there at one time for USC? . . . Just Askin'.

*** And to follow the theme here, we're guessing the general assumption that Clay is, at best, the 10th-highest-paid head coach in the Pac-12. Is that correct? And will it stay that way after a top three national finish? Or does it take a Pac-12 title too? . . . Just Askin'.  

*** But what comes first here? Does the USC administration also have to show a commitment to compete at every level where college football competes these days in what is becoming an all-out arms race? . . . Just Askin'.

*** Or do the USC coaches have to win and win for a while before getting fully competitive support from the administration? . . . Just Askin'.

*** Or how about declarations of increased support and demand for Pac-12 and national championships going hand-in-hand from the USC administration? . . . Just Askin'

*** And how is it that in some places, like Kansas -- KANSAS, they're bragging to the world that they're getting serious having upped assistant coaches' salaries to more than $3 million -- a more than $700,000 increase since last year's 2-10 season? Now we know the football staff salaries at private school USC are not public but we're wondering how close this gets the Jayhawks assistants' pay to what the nine USC assistants are making as a staff considering that a respected veteran like T-Rob, with 30 years of top college and NFL coaching experience and at the very least in the middle of the pack salary-wise on this USC staff, was making a reported $335,000? Multiply that by nine and what do you get? Not a math major here but is that not just over $3 million? . . . Just Askin'.

*** And now that he's at LSU, Tommie will be lucky to be middle of the road on a staff where the new offensive coordinator Matt Canada is being paid $1.5 million a year, and the holdover defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has gotten bumped up to $1.8 million. Again, for two guys, that's $3.3 million. And yet if USC and LSU run into each other at a bowl game down the road, won't USC fans take the Trojans and give the points just as the powers that be at USC would expect nothing less than a win -- and not one of those "lucky" wins at that? . . . Just Askin'.

*** But even at a program like Michigan, where just three of nine assistants are making a combined $3 million, the only time three assistants on the same staff had made $1 million, it's not just about the money or even official assistants apparently -- not the way the Wolverines are hiring these days. Amazingly Jim Harbaugh has found four people with previous ties to top recruits -- like their parents and/or coaches or both -- to fill jobs on his football staff from analyst to recruiting coordinator. And most recently he's hired California high school coach and onetime UCLA interim coach Michael Johnson, father of one of the nation's top quarterback prospects for 2018 -- to some sort of staff position. Is that kosher? . . . Just Askin'.

*** In college football, it still is unlike in basketball where people classified as IAWPs -- an Individual Associated With a Prospect -- are forbidden to be hired to non-coaching positions two years before or two years after a prospect's enrollment. In college basketball, the NCAA says it's cheating. In football, for now, it's smart competition. Go for it. How crazy is that? . . . Just Askin'.

*** And yeah, we know that the NCAA is considering making the IAWP rule apply to football in a vote this spring which coincidentally will be about the time when Harbaugh and his UM team are taking a break from the Ann Arbor winter in Rome. Don't you just love it? . . . Just Askin'.

*** And so we'll say it again: If USC should run into Harbaugh's guys in the Rose Bowl, is there anyone here who wouldn't expect USC to beat up on the Big Ten team no matter how much UM spends, who they hire, how they recruit or any of the rest of it? . . . Just Askin'.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at

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