ESPN reports that Nick Saban is leaving his $4.5m per year job with the Miami Dolphins for Alabama. Given his losing record in Miami, an 8-10 year deal worth $30-$40m in a league where he was highly successful makes sense -- for Saban.
But does it make sense for Alabama? For the NCAA? You can expect this news to bring forth many columns of criticism of Alabama, and the money that coaches are making these days in college football.
The length of the contract is what makes the deal such an eye-catcher. But the annual pay rate is also mighty large. At about $4m per year, Saban's deal is double that of Auburn's Tommy Tuberville and half a million to a million more than Iowa's Ferentz, Oklahoma's Stoops, and USC's Carroll. (See USAToday's analysis of current NCAA coaching contracts).
In bringing Saban on board, Alabama has hired a proven winner that maximizes their chance of returning to the summit of college football. Is that worth $2m more than the next best guy? It is hard for me to say. Surely, the money people at Alabama have the best feel for how much more boosters, sponsors, and ticket purchasers are willing to pay for an enhanced product.
A salary cap for coaches, given legal precedent, would violate anti-trust law. So the NCAA is powerless to stop the spiral in coaching salaries, short of stopping the flow of revenue into the game -- fat chance -- or shifting it to the players and away from the coaches (i.e. the player proxies). Also not likely.
As the money flows into the game, coaches' salaries will flow with it. Roll Tide!