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When it's time to make a coaching change....

At approximately 98.5 percent of all universities, the football team is the engine that runs the entire athletics department. When that engine churns along as designed, the department moves forward wonderfully. When it stops, so does the department. This is common knowledge.

But what happens when it becomes time to pull that engine out and get a new one?

We wrote earlier today about the head coaches hired before the 2011 season, and in nearly all of the 24 cases it's clear by now whether or not the hire proved to be a correct one. Of the four hires we've deemed unsuccessful, all of them are now gone. 

And in all four cases, we think the university made the right move.

There are a number of factors weighing on an athletic director's mind when mulling a coaching change - overall direction of the program, the state of recruiting, excitement of the fan base and, most of all, cost. There is always a cost in exchanging a coaching regime.

At the highest level, a coaching change can cost a program well over $10 million (think Charlie Weis at Notre Dame). This isn't the norm; but it happens. Thankfully, programs at the highest level (think Notre Dame, Alabama, etc...) have the donor support to be able to take care of these obligations. 

At a mid-level BCS school, that number is around $10 million - $5 million to buy out the exiting head coach and his staff, and $5 million to hire a new coach and his staff. At a typical MAC or Sun Belt school that number may be closer to $3 million, but it's always there. 

But there is also a cost to not making a change, and that opportunity cost may be greater than the $10 million or so required to make the existing problem go away.

With the right hire, a mid-level BCS school can make up that hypothetical $10 million within two years. Get a hundred boosters to pony up $100,000 apiece and you've made up your $10 million before you've even filled one of those 20,000 empty seats.