By: Jamie Samuelsen
Michigan fans love to quote Bo Schembechler when he turned down the Texas A&M job to stay in Ann Arbor in 1982.
“There are things more important in this world than money,” Bo said. “For that reason, I’ve decided to stay at Michigan.”
Well, it seems like times have changed.
There are certainly things that are more important than money, but Michigan isn’t one of them anymore. Winning is clearly more important than money, because Michigan is opening up the coffers now to keep up with Ohio State, Alabama and yes, Michigan State.
Michigan fired offensive coordinator Al Borges on Wednesday and quickly came to terms with former Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. The swiftness of the transaction makes you realize that Borges fate was sealed long ago, and the Wolverines were just trying to settle on his replacement. Or perhaps more importantly, settle on the price of his replacement.
Nussmeier will reportedly be paid $840,000, which makes him one of the five highest paid coordinators in football. Its pretty good company. He only has to look down the hall to see another member of the “top 5” – defensive coordinator Greg Mattison who also makes $840,000.
Brady Hoke has a nice lofty perch as well with an annual salary of 4.154 million in 2013, which was second behind Urban Meyer, and eighth nationally in terms of college head coaches. Hoke famously said when he signed the contract at Michigan that, “I couldn’t tell you what’s in the contract other than my signature.” That seems a tad hard to believe. But there’s little doubt that Michigan represents Hoke’s dream job and he’ll stay in Ann Arbor as long as they’ll have him.
What a person makes in his job shouldn’t matter unless it affects a sports salary cap. If Michigan is willing to pay top dollar for whom they perceive to be the best coaches, that’s their prerogative. But the spike in salaries has coincided with a rise in ticket prices for Michigan fans that have held season tickets for years.
They have joined many other schools in the practice of charging annual fees for season ticket holders simply for the opportunity to purchase the tickets which they’ve held for years. I have friends who have owned end zone tickets since graduation in the 1990s. They have to pay an annual fee of $200 dollars in addition to the price of tickets to the seven or eight home games each year. That annual fee goes up depending on where you’re sitting all the way to 60 – 90 thousand dollars for 16-seat suites at Michigan Stadium.
Michigan introduced the concept of “Dynamic Ticket Pricing” last summer that sets the price of a single game ticket based on what the market dictates. Think of it as buying a regular game ticket on StubHub. You don’t know what you’re going to pay until you see what interest the game will generate.
Again, if the market supports such pricing, so be it. The fans get their football and the university gets their money. But given the expansion of the Big Ten to include Rutgers and Maryland, I’ve heard more and more people suggest that hundreds or thousands of dollars on season tickets just doesn’t fit their budget anymore. When they got to see Penn State, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ohio State, it was great. But when the opponents are Akron, Eastern Michigan, Purdue and Rutgers – it’s not quite so sexy.
Michigan is simply doing what many other schools do. Throwing money at a problem and hoping that it’s solved. If Nussmeier can turn Devin Gardner or Shane Morris into Drew Stanton or A.J. McCarron, the Wolverines will contend for the Big Ten title and the money will seem like a mere pittance.
But if he fails, more and more Michigan fans will wonder why they and the school are spending more and more money on a program that’s producing underwhelming results. If Athletic Director Dave Brandon believes in “Dynamic Ticket Pricing” for the fans, perhaps he should consider “Dynamic Coaching Pricing” for his staff. Because this staff has not earned it’s lofty financial status yet. And it better start doing so very soon.