April 30, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – When Mike Hamrick returned to his alma mater as athletic director in July 2009, one of his first moves was to make the bottom line a top-of-the-line priority.
So, one of Hamrick’s early decisions at Marshall was to seek donors to a Football Enhancement Fund. Nearly four years later, the fund “is really serving its purpose,” Hamrick said. “It’s doing what we’d hoped it would do.”
Just one indication of that is a recent hike in football staff salaries, with Coach Doc Holliday having to hire seven on-field assistants (one stayed for 10 days) and a strength and conditioning coach this offseason.
“We’re doing better,” Hamrick said. “Assistant coaches’ salaries here have been very detrimental to us in the past. With what we’ve added, we’re just trying to keep up, to catch up.
“We’re still just trying to catch up, because we were so far behind, even though we aren’t trying to be USC or Alabama.”
The plan for the Football Enhancement Fund was to find 40 donors willing to commit $10,000 annually over a 5-year period, for a total of $2 million. Hamrick said MU has surpassed the original 40, with 46, but the 5-year window has only one more year to run.
“After we got started, when some people we hadn’t contacted found out about it, we got calls from about a half-dozen others asking how they could help,” the Herd AD said. “We’ve gotten about $1.8 million to date.”
The Herd AD said some donors’ Enhancement Fund contributions have been geared toward the ongoing Vision Campaign for new facilities, and while he’s looking for new FEF contributors, some have told the AD they plan to continue their $10,000 annual donation for another 5-year term.
That’s good news for Marshall, because coaching salaries don’t figure to do anything but spike.
A check of Thundering Herd coaching salaries compared to some FBS peers – in and out of Conference USA -- underscores Hamrick’s remarks. However, Marshall is way ahead of where it was just a few years ago in paying football coaches.
For the first time, when the new fiscal year (2014) starts July 1, Marshall will be paying in excess of $1 million (total) in base salary to its nine on-field assistants to Holliday.
The figure will be $1,008,262.
Compare that to when Hamrick arrived from UNLV.
The assistant coaches to former Coach Mark Snyder were paid a combined $858,881 in 2009. One big factor in the Enhancement Fund allowed Hamrick to hire Holliday, whose $600,000 salary is $200,000 more than the final year’s pay (2009) for Snyder (not including his contract buyout).
For the first time, in the 2013 season, Marshall is paying four assistant coaches $110,000 or more.
In five years, Marshall’s nine assistant football coaching salaries have risen by a combined $174,631, and this year, the head strength coach salary went from $57,000 to $100,000, allowing Holliday to land Scott Sinclair from UCF.
Also, the bottom number for assistants has moved into a neighborhood that allowed Holliday to make the solid offseason hires he has.
And to get someone with the big-time reputation of veteran Chuck Heater as defensive coordinator, Marshall added $44,000 to that spot to make Heater the first $200,000 assistant in program history.
The Herd’s lowest-paid assistants – four coaches have the same salary -- will earn $85,000 for 2013-14. When Hamrick returned “home,” the low salary was only $47,352, and none of the lowest four was paid in excess of $65,500.
The bottom line?
In Hamrick’s four years at Marshall, backed by the Football Enhancement Fund, the head coach, assistant coaches and head strength coach pay combined has spiked by more than $380,000.
“We’ve been able to do all of that through the Football Enhancement Fund,” Hamrick said.
However, Hamrick knows the Herd must continue to build the salary numbers if it wants to keep quality coaches. This offseason, Holliday lost some coaches who went to big-name FBS programs and received raises of $100,000 or more.
In Conference USA, for example, the average total salary for nine assistant coaches on a staff is just over $1.1 million. Marshall’s pay is comparable to the C-USA assistant’s average only at four of nine positions.
The Herd is about $100,000 behind that $1.1 million C-USA assistant staff average and ranks no better than 10th in on-field assistants’ pay among the changing 2013-14 membership for C-USA.
The numbers for a few schools that have been in what are known as the “BCS conferences” (through this season) display a larger disparity for the Herd.
According to various reports, picking three unnamed schools at random, here are some figures:
SEC school – The highest-paid assistant gets $1.62 million. The average for nine assistants is in excess of $430,000. The low at that school is $260,000.
Big Ten school – The highest-paid assistant is at $409,000. The average at that school is $259,000. The lowest-paid coach receives $178,000.
ACC school – The highest-paid coach is at $258,000. The average at that school is $202,000. The lowest-paid coach earns $80,000.
The average offensive and defensive coordinator pay across 120-some FBS schools is more than $325,000.
In saying “we’re obviously still catching up,” Hamrick pointed out the Football Enhancement Fund provides more than dollars for coaching salaries.
“It helps us in a recruiting a whole lot,” the Marshall AD said. “What we’ve basically done is told Doc we have a flexible number of dollars, just don’t waste money, and Doc doesn’t. But we’re not going to hamper recruiting efforts financially.
“Thanks to part of the enhancement fund, we have ability to use private aircraft, when Doc or one of the assistants needs to get somewhere in a hurry. One donor gave us $50,000-60,000 in flight time. We have significant use of private aircraft thanks to Football Enhancement Fund.
“Recruiting is a big part of having success. Sometimes you just have to get out and go, hop on a plane, go see someone and try and close the deal, so to speak.”
Hamrick also said the Enhancement Fund allows for increased tutoring and academic help hours for the football team, too.
Tara Helton, director of the Buck Harless Student-Athlete Program, said a 2.62 grade point average last semester was the football team’s high in her eight years in the post. There were 31 players with a 3.0 GPA or better in the Fall 2012 semester.
“And we’re in the process of adding additional academic support,” Hamrick said. “Not only is the 2.62 a record, but we’re graduating players.
“That’s part of why we created the Football Enhancement Fund, too. We needed to be more competitive. It’s helped us.
“The original idea was we wanted to put some resources and energy into what was a stagnant football program. It’s done that. And it’s given us the ability to do some things we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.”