ESPN recently took a look at the increasing investments that athletic departments are making in their head coaches and reached out to athletic directors to gather their thoughts on the changing market.
Michigan State's Mark Hollis admits that coaching salaries are on his list of concerns in today's world of college athletics.
"I get concerned sometimes about where we're going with coaches' salaries as an industry, but at the same time, you need to ensure that continuity is in place."
That continuity is coming at a price. Last season only Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke made more than $4 million annually. This offseason brought in one more coach to that elite club, with James Franklin due to make $4.25 million per season at Penn State. Kirk Ferentz and Mark Dantonio (whose new contract terms have yet to be announced) are just on the outside, looking in on that $4 million bubble.
Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner has witnessed continuity at the highest level (Joe Paterno), hired a new head coach (Bill O'Brien) and had to pull out the checkbook when they hired James Franklin away from the program he masterfully built down in Nashville at Vanderbilt.
Making James Franklin one of the highest paid coach in the Big Ten wasn't as hard of a decision for Joyner as one might think, and a lot of people would find his logic behind why very interesting.
"If you believe [the coach is] going to have a very positive effect on your fan base and on your program and on your ability to put bodies in the seats, it doesn't take a lot of seats to cause a return on that investment."
To put that in context, Joyner notes in the article that an increase of 1,000 fans during the season (including parking and concessions) adds about half a million dollars in revenue.
In a much different article from MLive, Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman might have put it the best when defending the $7.49 million dollar payroll for the Michigan's top 16 executives (including athletic director Dave Brandon) by explaining; "It's not about working hard, it's about the consequences of failure, that's a judgment that in some ways the market makes."
Think about those thoughts from Joyner and Coleman. Seems like those two things can sum up the thought process for athletic directors cutting large checks to their football staffs just about perfectly.
One could argue that no light is brighter in the fall than the one that points at a top college football program. As long as that's the case, it sounds like Big Ten athletic directors aren't going to have a problem pulling out the checkbook.