When Mike Bobo accepted the head coaching position at Colorado State, there truly never any doubt that he was going to take Georgia’s offensive line coach, and one of his best friends, Will Friend. With the offensive line position open at a fairly secure and storied SEC program, the calls and texts must have poured in to both Mark Richt and Jeremy Pruitt (yes, Pruitt has that much stroke in Athens already).
Richt chose to hire Brian Schottenheimer as his new offensive coordinator and then he, Schottenheimer (and, yes, Pruitt) chose to extend an offer to Rob Sale to become their new offensive line coach.
A multi-year starter at LSU, Sale spent five years as a member of Nick Saban’s support staff at Alabama, and then coached McNeese State’s offense line for the past two years. Sale was a candidate for the open LSU job that ultimately went to Jeff Grimes last year, and was promoted to co-offensive coordinator at McNeese prior to the 2014 season. He beat out a number of talented applicants for this job. Sale put in his time, he worked hard for, and he earned this job.
Earlier today Georgia announced that they are paying Sale $400,000 per year as their new offensive line coach. We would never begrudge anyone – player or coach – for taking any money offered to them, especially if it is life-changing money. All of us have expiration dates on our careers, and many will arrive before they are welcomed. Before we go any further, let’s understand one thing: this is article is not about Rob Sale but more about the macro issue, what is driving these salaries.
While we don’t know exactly what Sale made at McNeese State last season, we’ve been told it’s in the neighborhood of $60,000 a year. A $250,000 salary would have quadrupled his income and drubbed the non-existent FBS competition Georgia negotiated against to land Sale’s services. A number significantly less than that would have likely gotten Sale to leave McNeese State, but $250,000 to $300,000 is a fair starting salary for an SEC position coach.
The $400,000 salary Georgia offered to Sale is 33 percent more than his predecessor (according to the USA Today coaching salary database), new Colorado State offensive coordinator Will Friend. It’s nearly $25,000 more than LSU paid Grimes, a 15-year veteran in the FBS ranks with offensive line coaching experience at Boise State, Arizona State, BYU, Colorado, Auburn and Virginia Tech prior to beating out Sale for a spot on Les Miles’ staff. It’s $30,000 more than Auburn offensive line coach J.B. Grimes, a 30-year coaching veteran.
Sale will earn almost the exact same salary than Ohio State’s Ed Warinner, a 22-year veteran of coaching FBS offensive lines and the only two-time FootballScoop Offensive Line Coach of the Year winner. As it stands, Sale will rank below Alabama’s Mario Cristobal, South Carolina’s Shawn Elliott and Arkansas’ Sam Pittman, but ahead of Grimes, Ole Miss’ Matt Luke, Mississippi State’s John Hevesey and Tennessee’s Don Mahoney.
Each of the above comparisons have a decade or more of evidence that they can recruit and develop productive offensive lines at the highest level of college football. Sale has none. This is his first FBS full-time on the field job.
At the time this all played out, there were no other open Power Five offensive line coaching vacancies east of California. Hard to imagine Georgia felt they had to compete with anyone else for Sale’s services. On top of that, the number of qualified candidates extending interest in the job was surely in the dozens. This isn’t a situation where Georgia had to plop a big number on the table to win Sale’s services or pay up to attract top talent to the job. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.
In spite of that, Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity chose to make him the Sam Bradford of offensive line coaches. What were the market factors driving this decision?
Georgia and its boosters have made a commitment to push the program over the top, and will spare no expense to get there. I get that. But every budget has its end, and overpaying for Sale is another $100,000 or so that Georgia can’t use to improve its program elsewhere. Again, this isn’t a knock on Sale for taking what was offered. Every one of us would have done the same. But I just don’t understand what was driving the economics behind the offer.