We’re one week removed from the news of Chris Petersen’s momentous (by Pac-12 standards) contract extension, which increases his average annual pay to $4.875 million.
That make Petersen, who’s fresh off a playoff appearance and works for a school with significant football resources, the highest-paid head coach in the conference.
He’s the first Pac-12 coach to crack the top 10 nationally, based on the current numbers in USA Today’s awesome salary database.
He’s the first to make the top 15, in fact.
For all the influx of money into the conference over the past five years, the salary structure for head coaches has lagged the SEC and Big Ten: Only Petersen and Stanford’s David Shaw are in the top 20.
Consider: Ten coaches in the SEC are making more than the third-highest paid Pac-12 coach listed in the USAT database, Utah’s Kyle Whittingham.
It’s all market driven, of course, and the Pac-12 market isn’t quite as competitive, which some might argue isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
In the week since news of Petersen’s new deal, I’ve been mulling the salary landscape in the conference. Each time, the train of thought leads to the same station:
The most significant contract in the conference belongs not to Petersen but Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt.
Hired away from Colorado by Willie Taggart, Oregon’s first-year head coach, Leavitt is set to earn $1.5 million annually.
That, folks, is the Pac-12’s market buster, its landscape changer — the deal that must make other coordinators celebrate and athletic directors wince.
Best I can ascertain, Leavitt’s salary essentially doubles the largest contract for a coordinator/assistant coach in the conference.
Heck, Leavitt’s deal is equivalent to half of the staff salary pool at six different public schools.
Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Cal, Oregon State and Washington State all have staff salary pools under $3 million, per the USAT database.
Prior to Leavitt hitting the jackpot in Eugene, the highest-paid assistant/coordinator was UCLA’s Adrian Klemm, who earned $760,000 but violated NCAA rules, didn’t coach all that well, and was fired this offseason.
(Caveat: USC and Stanford don’t make staff contracts public. But based on hiring patterns and logistics, it’s unlikely either program is paying an assistant/coordinator more than $760,000. USC’s Clancy Pendergast, who jumped from the 49ers, would be the best bet to exceed that figure.)
In other words: Leavitt’s deal has changed the market — at least for the 10 public schools and quite possibly for all 12.
It might be one hiring cycle, it might be two. But sooner than later, the top Pac-12 coordinators will start commanding low/mid seven figures.
They can thank the Ducks for it … and so can their bosses.
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