Most of the head coaching jobs are going to offensive coaches these days, for a variety of reasons. One of them: high-level defensive coordinators can afford to be picky.
Texas A&M’s Mike Elko is now the fourth $2 million coordinator in college football, according to documents obtained by Ben Baby of the Dallas Morning News.
Hired away from Notre Dame after the 2017 season, Elko worked without a contract for the entirety of the 2018 campaign. He was still among the nation’s highest-paid assistants, earning $1.8 million, according to the USA Today salary database.
Elko’s camp and Texas A&M finally agreed on a deal in February, a 3-year contract that boosts his salary to $2.1 million, the third-highest in the nation. The language of the contract keeps Elko under contract through January 2022 and gives the school the option to extend the deal by an additional deal each December.
At $2.1 million, Elko trails only LSU’s Dave Aranda ($2.5 million) and Clemson’s Brent Venables ($2.2 million); Auburn’s Kevin Steele made $2.05 million in 2018, according to USA Today. All four are defensive coordinators, as were the next four highest-paid assistants in 2018.
Ironically, Elko will butt heads with each of the three other $2 million coordinators this season. Texas A&M visits Clemson on Sept. 7, hosts Auburn on Sept. 21 and closes its regular season at LSU on Nov. 30. The Aggies faced all three teams in Elko’s debut season; the Elko vs. Aranda battle became the highest-scoring game in FBS history, a 74-72 Aggie win in seven overtimes.
Elko’s defense lopped nearly a touchdown per game off its scoring defense average from 2017 to ’18, falling from 30.7 points per game allowed (87th nationally) in the year prior to his arrival to 25.3 in 2018 (47th).
Elko’s contract carries no buyout should he leave for a college head coaching position or an NFL job, but he would owe $1.05 million if leaving for another assistant job in the SEC. Elko interviewed for the Temple job that went to then-Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, but he was not a factor in the Owls’ second search.
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