Skip to main content

It pays to be Vince Marrow right now

Update: Marrow has decided to remain at Kentucky. See tweet below.

Now we wait on the contract details which are expected to be in the million dollar per year range.

In an alternate universe, Mark Dantonio sticks it out at Michigan State for one more year. In another, Luke Fickell takes the job and brings his entire Cincinnati staff with him.

But we can't peek into those universes, we're stuck in this one -- the one where all of us can't drive Teslas, your hairline creeps two millimeters north with each passing week, and where Mel Tucker is the head coach at Michigan State.

Which means, in this universe, Vince Marrow is, at this moment, the most wanted man in the entire football coaching profession.

The facts of Marrow's life aren't one iota different than they were three days ago, except that his old friend Mel got the Michigan State job and wants to use his talents to scoop up overlooked and underrated Ohio kids and convince them to spend their college years at Michigan State instead of Kentucky.

As fate would have it, Ari Wasserman of The Athletic happened to do a deep dive this week into the work Marrow and Mark Stoops have done mining Ohio's recruiting market:

In the past seven recruiting cycles (2014-20), there were 93 four- and five-star prospects in Ohio. Ohio State predictably signed the most (38), followed by Kentucky (10), Notre Dame (eight), Michigan State (seven) and Michigan (five); the rest of the Big Ten has signed five total. That means Kentucky has signed almost 10 percent of the blue-chip prospects in Ohio in that span.

That’s a stark difference from what was happening before Stoops got to UK. In the 2009-2013 classes, there were 88 four- and five-star players in Ohio — and UK signed two. Ohio State (39) and Michigan (17) were the dominant schools.

Sense the pattern? Before Stoops and Marrow arrived at Kentucky, the Wildcats weren’t a factor in Ohio. Since Stoops and Marrow brought Kentucky into Ohio, the Wildcats have signed more blue-chip Ohio prospects than anybody outside of OSU. Not only that, Kentucky has signed more total Ohio prospects (47, one more than Michigan State) than any Big Ten school not named Ohio State.

As such, once word leaked that Tucker was interested in hiring Marrow, and Stoops immediately cut a well-earned vacation short to begin his own re-recruitment pitch. (Again, imagine all the universe-bending variables that had to combine to a point where Stoops had to cut a well-earned vacation short because of a hire Michigan State made.)

Tucker has a whopping $6 million to spend on assistants, and he wants to devote a significant chunk of that to Marrow. According to the USA Today database, Marrow -- Kentucky's associate head coach, tight ends coach, recruiting coordinator and NFL liaison -- earned $600,000 in 2019, an equal amount to Texas Tech offensive coordinator David Yost, Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and both of North Carolina's coordinators, Jay Bateman and Phil Longo. He earned more than six MAC head coaches, three Sun Belt head coaches, two Mountain West head coaches and one Conference USA head coach. Marrow's now set for a massive raise, and the only question is how massive. Michigan State offered Marrow, Kentucky countered and Michigan State came back with a second offer. Kentucky will now presumably counter that counter.

Marrow was previously Kentucky's third-highest paid assistant, trailing only assistant head coach for offense Eddie Gran ($875,000) and defensive coordinator Brad White ($625,000).

How high is Stoops willing to go before he taps out? Can he pay his tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator an equal amount to his offensive coordinator? Can he pay him more?

If this bidding war is truly about dollars, Tucker has a clear advantage given he's got the larger war chest -- again, $6 million to Kentucky's $5.1 -- and he's working with a clean slate. He can pay Marrow $1 million without having to worry about giving subsequent raises to his coordinators because he doesn't have any coordinators yet.

And, yeah, there's chatter in the profession the final total could approach $1 million by the time a decision is made.

Leverage is a great superpower to have if you can get your hands on it.