It isn't a secret that BYU doesn't shell out top dollar for their coaching staff of the biggest revenue sports. A recent column from the Salt Lake Tribune may show exactly how big that disparity is right now though.
On Friday night, Gordon Monson at the Trib penned a column that doubted BYU's commitment to football excellence due to its lack of financial commitment. The general thesis is probably not one that's unfamiliar to Cougar fans, but there were a few specifics that may constitute new information, or at least, new reported information.
First, just how much is Sitake getting paid? From Monson:
Based on conversations with sources associated with the school's athletics, that's not likely to drastically change anytime soon, although it has gotten a bit better. It's not as though Kalani Sitake is making chump change — estimates on his salary range as high as $1.5 million a year, with half of that amount coming from the school, half coming from a wealthy group of BYU boosters known as the Coaches Circle whose purpose is to raise — or donate — money with the aim of the Cougars hiring and retaining quality coaches in both basketball and football
As a private institution, BYU is not obligated to release their contracts to the public, and as far as I know, this is the first time a major outlet has published a number after Sitake's hiring. Based on what I was hearing during the hiring process, and reading between the lines here a little bit, I'd guess Sitake's base compensation is actually a little *less* than $1.5 million for this year, but could grow to that point, either via incentives or built-in bumps over the course of the deal. But that's just my personal guess.
The fact that the school itself is only kicking in about half is not unheard of in college football, where apparel contracts or boosters can supplement deals, but I'm not sure it's exactly common, either.
In case this wasn't clear during the actual hiring process, Monson also says that Sitake wasn't, in fact, BYU's first choice for the gig:
The latter notion didn't work out so well in the days after Mendenhall announced he was leaving with the courting of Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, to whom BYU offered its head coaching job and was turned down. Niumatalolo didn't feel comfortable with the way BYU stumbled through that process, and the money was less than what he could get by staying at Navy.
The last sentence there is the interesting one here to me. BYU is obviously not comparable in salary to say, an Alabama or an Ohio State. BYU doesn't have access to the same caliber of donor base, the same lucrative TV deal, etc, as a major power five institution. Those are apples and oranges.
But BYU probably does fancy itself a peer of at least high performing G5 programs, if not more frugal P5 ones, and on that level, $1.5 million is awfully low. That's less than Navy pays. That's less than Cincinnati pays for Tommy Tuberville. That's less than Memphis is giving to first year head coach Mike Norvell. That's way less than Houston is giving Tom Herman. Heck, it's less than UConn is giving Bob Diaco. Using last year's USA TODAY coaching salary database, 1.5M would put BYU at 60th in the country. But based on incentives that will kick in for coaches from last season, and some new deals that were passed out, I imagine it would be closer to 65th for the 2016 season.
Could this change? I really don't know. BYU's employee salaries are lower than many of their peers across the board, not just for athletics. In fact, that's sort of the case for Church employees, generally, and that's probably not going to change anytime soon (Monson alludes to this). If BYU's athletic department budget stays in the mid $50-60 million range, they're going to be a bit limited in what they can spend too. And even if they had the resources, the university might be philosophically opposed to shelling out $3 million bucks for a coach anyway. That's entirely possible.
Does it matter? It might. BYU's coaching candidate pool is awfully shallow. There may have only been about six people, period, who could have been considered for the BYU head coaching job. If Sitake is successful over the next two or three years, and somebody like say, Colorado, or Cal, or whoever, offers to pay him $3.2 million, could he leave? And if he does, where does BYU go? They've now already been priced out of the two other LDS head coaches. If there isn't an obvious replacement on this staff...well...for BYU's sake, I hope some folks are taking the discussions.
You don't need to pay big money at everything to be successful. But Monson's general point may not be wrong...if BYU isn't able, or willing, to pay market rate for a great coach, they could be playing with fire if they get the opportunity to leave. Some people are Provo lifers, regardless of the money. But maybe not everybody will be.