Oklahoma has been able to get away with not paying their football assistants top dollar, but that may be changing as they look to replace three recently departed coaches.
As much of you know, the current predicament Bob Stoops currently finds himself in is one unlike any he has experienced thus far as the head coach at the University of Oklahoma. In the span of less than a week. Stoops has fired three of his assistant coaches. One of whom was arguably his closest friend by most accounts, another someone who has been with him practically since the day he took over in Norman, still another who had been here for seven years which is no small feat given the cutthroat nature of this business.
While Stoops is obviously experiencing something new and unfamiliar, we as fans are experiencing the same. This is the first time we've really been subjected to the rumors and speculation that so often come during a coaching search, let alone searches. The information can come quick and it's not always reliable, so it requires a certain degree of skepticism on our part.
But you know all of this already. So what's my point you may be asking. The point the changes Stoops made with his coaching staff were not the only necessary changes needing to be made. It's time for the powers that be at the University of Oklahoma to loosen up the purse strings a little bit.
Things have changed in Norman and I'm not just talking about the recent firings. There was a time when Oklahoma was a destination job for assistant coaches as Stoops' coaching tree was growing at an incredible rate with promotion after promotion. Whether it was Mike Leach, Mike Stoops, Mark Mangino, Kevin Sumlin, Kevin Wilson, or any of the others you already know, the point is an assistant job at Oklahoma was about as close of a thing to a guaranteed promotion-in-waiting as it came.
Well, it's not a coincendence that as the Sooners have fallen (at least by their/our standards) from national prominence and/or national championship appearances opposing coaches are not coming around as often as they used to.
That's certainly not meant to imply there is not talent amongst this Oklahoma coaching staff, far from it in fact. But for whatever reason OU assistants have not been anywhere close to in-demand as they've been in the past. Which leads me back to the point of all this and what I was alluding to with that 'purse string' comment earlier.
If you accept the theory, perhaps even if you don't, I've presented that an assistant job at the University of Oklahoma does not hold the same kind of appeal as in years past, then Oklahoma is very likely going to have to pay to get top flight talent.
It's probably not fair to call Oklahoma cheap when it comes to paying their assistants, it is fair to say their assistant's salaries have not been on the same level as many of the other elite level football programs. Some quick 2012 salary references to illustrate my point.
James Patton OU $272,000
Joe Wickline OSU $440,000
Jeff Stoutland Bama $395,000
Stacy Searls UT $439,500
Rick Trickett FSU $416,150
Ed Warinner tOSU $357,800
You see my point, right? The days of keeping your coaching talent without paying them market value are over. You need look no further than the $800,000 contract Clemson gave Brent Venables to steal him away from Oklahoma. Granted, there were some other issues surrounding his departure but you're lying to yourself if you think money wasn't also a significant factor in his decision.
You can continue to underpay your assistants, but if you're having success eventually someone else is going to come calling. If you're not willing to match and/or beat their offer, you're going to lose that assistant coach. And at some point you risk the new addition not being as good as the coach they have replaced.
Oklahoma is probably never going to pay an assistant coach the near seven figure (or more) contract guys like Chad Morris, Kirby Smart, John Chavis, or Manny Diaz currently make. It has just never been OU's style to do so and quite frankly their refusal to do has certainly played at least some kind of role in their athletic department being one of the few that actually turns a net profit.
While they may not approach the seven figure mark, they are going to have to come up, perhaps significantly, from what they've become accustomed because the top flight assistants want to be paid accordingly.
If these coaching changes made by Stoops were done with the intention of returning Oklahoma to a national championship contender and not simply to bring in another round of retreads (see Mark Mangino) or to settle for a lesser but more familiar talent, then Oklahoma will have to open up the checkbook and pay for it.
Now don't get the message twisted. This does not mean that Oklahoma needs to go out and start doubling coaches salaries to get them to Norman, obviously. However, it does mean they will have to step outside their comfort zone a little bit and offer up some more money to even those without the title 'head coach' at the top of their nameplate.
As Stoops' agent and account would be happy to attest, they (OU) clearly do not have a problem paying Bob whatever is necessary to keep him happy. (And if that, in some way, happens to fund some trips to Italy to pick up handmade tile for they foyer in your shiny new Norman compound then consider it a happy accident. I kid, Bob. The house looks great, at least from the outside.) Well news flash everyone: Bob Stoops isn't doing this by himself. And I can pretty much guarantee you he would be the first person to tell you that.
For those of us that have done so, more often than not when you hire a friend you can get them at a 'discounted rate' let's call it. Now obviously this doesn't apply in all situations, but for the purposes of my point here I think it's fair to say this theory applies. In this day and age of college football as we know it, the top coaching talent isn't typically offering up their services at a discount.
My point being, you can either keep hiring your friends or you can start brining in some of the up-and-coming assistant coaches. The kicker of course being you're going to have to pay more for the latter.
It's that simple. The only question at this point is whether or not it's time to loosen up the purse strings and break out the checkbook or keep bargain shopping. I think I know my answer, but then again it's not my checkbook.