Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Should It Pay to Be On Top?

Although we don't know who Michigan's next coach will be, we do know that whoever it is will likely get paid well--David Brandon has already stated that a program of Michigan's stature needs to pay its coaches more than just a "middle of the pack" salary. And, even more certain, he will most definitely get paid more than his coordinators. What I've been wondering for a while, though, is whether this it-pay-to-be-king strategy really makes sense.

Most people are aware of the Peter Principle. That is, "in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence." In the business world, this might mean the best salesman gets promoted to be the sales manager; in the sports world, it means the best coordinator often gets to be head coach. And, just like the skills  necessary to make someone a great salesman don't necessarily make them a great sales manager, the skills necessary to make someone a great coordinator don't necessarily make them a great head coach.

But rather than try to discourage coordinators from seeking the promotion that will expose their weaknesses, athletic departments actively encourage it--are there any schools where the coordinators gets paid more than the head coach? What if, instead of spending money on a top head coach, schools spent most of their money on their coordinators? Then, that brilliant offensive mind can worry about the offense, rather than the defense and glad-handing alums. (The lower-paid head coach could resolve any disputes between the coordinators and handle any administrative duties.)

Certainly, this plan isn't perfect. People care about more than just money--no doubt egos could get in the way. But with the proper mix of personalities, it could be a more efficient way of organizing a coaching staff**.

Although it might sounds far-fetched, the plan isn't without any precedent--in some ways, this is how most professional sports teams work. Sure, the head coach gets paid more than his assistants--but he gets paid a lot less than most of the players he coaches, who are, in effect, his "employees"*. There are many things that don't transfer between the college and pro games, but I'm not convinced this isn't one of them.

* Likewise, the coach also probably gets paid more than the GM, who technically is his boss.
** And, perhaps a business.


Dan said...

Interesting plan, and I believe it could work with the exact right coaches. But those situations would be few and far between.

Teams mostly work when the head coach has control. Assistants must fall in line because they're expendable. When they make more than the head coach, who's more expendable? Who holds control?

Jack said...

But isn't that the entire point of the plan. The head coach doesn't need to be in control of the coordinators because each is supposed to have more responsibility. The problems usually occur when the head coaches lose control to coordinators who are not supposed to have that power.