After the season, Bo Pelini offered his entire staff pay raises for 2013, starting with offensive coordinator Tim Beck. Beck went from $365,000 a year to $700,000; that's a 93% pay raise. That's a big number but considering how Nebraska's offense jumped in productivity this season, it's probably a good investment. The Lincoln Journal-Star reports that at least two schools inquired about Beck after the season, so the raise is also an attempt to lock him into Lincoln. Beck is now the third highest paid assistant coach in the Big Ten behind Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell and Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.
Is that worth it? I'd say yes on Beck's raise. In 2009 (and to some extent in 2010), offense was a liability at Nebraska, and now the offense is a strength. Much of that has to do with having playmakers like Taylor Martinez, Kenny Bell, and Jamal Turner on the field, but you can't dismiss Beck's contributions. Still need to work on turnover issues, but the offensive scheme gives defensive coordinators a headache.
Defensive coordinator John Papuchis received a $10,000 raise to $310,000. When the market on coaching salaries call for increases, you pretty much have to offer Papuchis a modest increase...and that's a modest increase for a football coach.
Ron Brown and Barney Cotton both received raises from $240,000 to $254,880 a year. That's an odd number; there must be a reason why they were kept under $255,000. I'm more comfortable with Brown's raise than Cotton's, but that's Bo Pelini's choice. The offensive line was better this season than last, but there's still a lot of work to be done up front.
Bo must be feeling fairly good about the development of the offensive line so far, though. He bumped John Garrison's salary up to $245,000 from $160,000 last year. Like with Cotton, obviously Pelini sees something worth rewarding with his offensive line, even if it hasn't manifested itself yet consistently in a game.
The two most deserving raises were for defensive backs coach Terry Joseph ($245,000, up from $230,000) and wide receivers coach Rich Fisher ($200,000, up from $180,000). Fisher is definitely the best value on the staff, as the wide receivers are light years better than they were two years ago. Remember when people used to joke about his coaching sabbatical as a golf pro? Nobody in their right mind is making those snide comments anymore. And Capital One Bowl aside, the secondary markedly improved this season. Joseph's definitely a keeper.
Ross Els received a $10,000 raise to $230,000 a year. Hopefully, we'll see Els remove one of his hats, though, and preferably it's as special teams coordinator. Special teams floated mostly between bad and horrific this season. Reporters like Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald think highly of Els as recruiting coordinator, so it's worth entertaining him continuing in that role. Defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski will be paid $208,900 this next season, up from $195,000.
Considering where the market is on coaching salaries, there isn't a lot of room to complain about these salaries. It would put Nebraska third in the Big Ten at $2.64 million compared to the rest of the league last year. In 2012, Ohio State paid their assistants $3.29 million and Michigan paid $2.93 million.
Yes, coaches are overpaid for what they do. They work hard, but so do many Americans in other professions. That's not the point. Football is a big money game; it's the economic engine that pays for just about everything else in the athletic department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. And then some, since sports actually subsidizes part of the University. Which is something that is a relative rarity; at most schools, the school subsidizes athletics.
And with football being the cash cow, it's incumbent to pay the people most important to that program appropriately. So on a comparative basis with other coaches, these raises are warranted. But if you want to observe that they are paid more than people in other careers, your observation is well-founded. You're right...but the fact remains that football generates that much revenue, and the salaries are a reflection of that.