Ferd Lewis: University of Hawaii looks to maximize value in hiring football staff
When Norm Chow took over as head football coach at the University of Hawaii for 2012, he said he embraced a 20/20 philosophy in hiring his assistant coaches: Work ’em 20 hours a day for a $20,000-a-year salary.
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When Norm Chow took over as head football coach at the University of Hawaii for 2012, he said he embraced a 20/20 philosophy in hiring his assistant coaches:
Work ’em 20 hours a day for a $20,000-a-year salary.
He was joking, sort of. But a long hours, low pay (by lavish NCAA Division I industry standards, anyway) approach was applauded by the Bachman Hall administration, which did not object to having a pay scale for assistants that hugged the bottom of the 12-team Mountain West Conference or the attrition that ensued.
As new UH head coach Todd Graham has set about hiring his 10-member staff of assistants, he has worked with a pay scale whose minimum for assistants is 33% higher than the one Chow had or Nick Rolovich started with. One that was also nearly a 30% bottom step improvement for coordinators or associate head coaches, though still ranking well in the bottom half of the MWC and deep in the shadows of well-heeled Power 5 conference schools.
Of course, money is only part of the equation, especially at UH, where stretching tight the shoestring is Job One. Finding the right coaches and then placing them in the right schemes and places to get maximum value is what counts. You need look no further than the difference between what Rolovich’s staff did his first two years (10-16) and what the changeover in staff accomplished in his last two seasons (18-11) against often better-resourced opponents.
How much UH has been spending — or will spend — on its pool of assistant coaches is considered top secret at UH these days. Athletic director David Matlin, claiming confidentiality for assistant coaches under their Hawaii Government Employees Association membership, has refused to disclose even how much the total 10-member pool is for assistants, much less how much individual coaches make.
What is known is that both Greg McMackin’s final staff and Chow’s earned approximately $1 million and subsequent numbers have gone up. It is estimated that for the 2019 fiscal year, which closed June 30, 2019, the figure was approximately $1.3 million.
Those raises in base salary and bonus components contributed significantly to UH’s most recent $2.9 million athletic department deficit, according to an independent auditor’s report.
But while UH has waded deeper into red ink to raise its pay ranges, those of its competition have escalated, too. At least seven of the 11 other MWC members spent $1.6 million — or more — in their pool for assistant coaches. Both Boise State and Fresno State State hit $2 million each.
Bryan Harsin, the Broncos’ head coach, has a clause in his contract that the pool for his assistants will be “at least” $2.2 million annually, according to the Idaho Statesman newspaper.
To illustrate the highly competitive and increasingly stratified environment of salaries for assistant coaches, we offer the example of Zak Hill, an up-and-coming offensive coordinator.
UH hired Hill away from Eastern Washington for all of 48 days before he jumped to Boise State and a $285,000 salary (plus $20,000 signing bonus) in 2016. Two months ago, Hill bolted Boise for Arizona State, where he is expected to make upwards of $700,000 as the Sun Devils offensive coordinator.
In the Pac-12 Conference, where ASU resides, the salary pool for assistants averaged $4 million for each public school. The Southeastern Conference came in at more than $5.5 million.
Meanwhile, as Graham cobbles together his staff, the challenge will be in how well the mix maximizes the Rainbow Warriors’ resources.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com or 529-4820.