A year ago at this time, we were talking about how the Big Ten had seemingly become the minor leagues of major college football with Bret Bielema's departure for Arkansas and the talking point that the Big Ten just didn't pay its coaches enough. That talk has all gone away now.
In what is shaping up to be the winter of Big Ten resurgence - with Penn State nabbing James Franklin from Vanderbilt, Ohio State taking Chris Ash from Arkansas, to name two key moves - Michigan and Michigan State announced two key moves on Tuesday afternoon that will go a long way toward securing their own futures.
First, Michigan announced it had inked a three-year contract with offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. While he isn't in the million-dollar coordinator club quite yet, he could be there by 2016. In a significant raise from the $681,500 he earned at Alabama in 2013, Nussmeier will make $830,000 in 2014, $860,000 in 2015 and $880,000 in 2016 with a $200,000 retention bonus tacked on if he remains on the job all three seasons.
The contract would bump Nussmeier from 12th to sixth for all coordinator salaries in 2013, below what Georgia paid Todd Grantham but above what Justin Wilcox made at Washington.
Up the state in East Lansing, Michigan State announced it was rewarding the staff that turned in Sparty's best season in a quarter century with significant raises.
First, head coach Mark Dantonio received a bump from $1.99 million to $3.64 million, a raise of $1.65 million. The raise catapults Dantonio from 51st to 11th nationally among 2013 head coaching salaries. Where he was previously sandwiched by Kentucky's Mark Stoops and SMU's June Jones, Dantonio now falls between Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy and Iowa's Kirk Ferentz. Dantonio's salary now ranks fourth in the Big Ten, trailing only Urban Meyer, Brady Hoke and Ferentz. Considering Michigan State's 2013 season and their three top 14 finishes since 2010, he's still the conference's biggest bargain even after an 83 percent raise.
Elsewhere on his staff, defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi catapults from the criminally-underpaid $559,000 he banked in 2013 to a more proper salary of $904,000, making him the highest-paid assistant in the Big Ten and the fourth-highest in all of college football.
Michigan State also provided an additional $440,000 for Dantonio to split among his eight remaining assistants - those details can be seen here.
In retaining its best coaches and hiring god ones away from other conferences, the Big Ten is again functioning like the major conference it is.