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.