Josh Kendall

SEC AD: 'It's one of the biggest challenges we have in college athletics'

In 2017, 15 college football assistants made more than $1 million a year and nine of them worked in the SEC.

Since last season ended one of them, LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, has gone over $2 million annually, and at least one more coach has joined the list thanks to a raise that will pay South Carolina defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson $1.2 million annually.

“I think it’s one of the biggest challenges we have in college athletics is what our coaches are making,” Florida athletics director Scott Stricklin said this week at the SEC’s annual meetings. “They are in a market that allows them to enjoy those kinds of salaries, but I do think the optics of it are not helpful.”

The Gamecocks' 10-person assistant coaching staff – Robinson, offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon ($650,000), offensive line coach Eric Wolford ($600,000), Lance Thompson ($550,000), quarterbacks coach Dan Werner ($500,000), special teams coordinator Coleman Hutzler ($475,000), running backs coach Bobby Bently ($400,000), linebackers and defensive ends coach Mike Peterson ($300,000), tight ends coach Pat Washington ($300,000) and special teams assistant Kyle Krantz ($125,000) – makes a total of $5.1 million. That total would have ranked fifth in the country last year but will not this year because of offseason raises at other schools and the addition of a 10th coach to every staff.

“It’s what the market bears,” said Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne, whose assistant coaching staff made almost $6 million total last year. “We want to make sure for all of our sports we attract the best candidates for our jobs. Obviously, salaries are part of that. There’s always going to be debates about what you do as a program.”

Stricklin is concerned about how that debate looks, though. Athletic departments have been able to argue that skyrocketing salaries for head coaches were worthwhile because of the exposure successful programs bring to universities, but it’s much harder to make that argument based on assistant coaches.

“I’m appreciative of the job our coaches do, but the optics of that is very uncomfortable,” Stricklin said.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said he doesn’t think that assistant coach salaries will continue to rise forever.

“Well, where is it? I don’t know,” Sankey said. “It’s going to take campus oversight. There is an end. Where might it be? I’m not going to jump into that prediction.”