Brian Kelly reportedly interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles after Notre Dame’s BCS championship loss, with “mutual interest” shown between the two sides. The allure of Sundays would seemingly throw a wrench in the Fighting Irish’s future, but the rules of college coaches and NFL negotiations have changed.
Notre Dame may not be bankrolled with Phil Knight’s Nike riches like Oregon, but the athletic program won’t have to pawn its Dome at Cash4Gold to offer Kelly and his staff more to remain in South Bend.
For the elite coaches, NFL jobs are not necessarily the career brass ring. An NFL opening can be leveraged into bigger and better things in the college game.
Coaches like Chip and Brian Kelly can thank Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh for balancing the negotiating table. Both will lead playoff teams this weekend and have dispelled some of the myth about the transition from college to the NFL.
Yahoo! Sports NFL beat writer Mike Silver wrote a scathing indictment of Nick Saban on the heels of Alabama winning its third BCS championship in four seasons. Silver uses the bush league backdrop of Bull Durham to derisively characterize college football as the minors.
Big time college football has never been like the bus riding, sack lunch, “hit the bull and win a free steak” world of minor league baseball; certainly not in the modern era. Still, college football cannot offer the challenge of coaching the elite of the elite, nor have college athletic department budgets been capable of meeting the bank accounts of NFL franchises.
Take Steve Spurrier, whose $1 million contract at Florida was unprecedented. Just a few years after his deal at UF dropped jaws, he was given $5 million a year to coach the Washington Redskins. Professional coaches still earn more than their college counterparts, but the gap isn’t as substantial as when the highest paid college coach received 20 percent of the richest NFL deal.
Sean Payton’s reported new, $8 million contract is more lucrative than Saban’s paycheck at Alabama. But with a deal that under current stipulations will pay nearly $6 million by 2019, Saban won’t be hurting anytime soon.
NFL franchises haven’t been plucking college coaches from the high profile gigs. The latest to make the leap is Doug Marrone — successful at Syracuse, but no title contender. Buffalo’s hire of Marrone is akin to Tampa Bay’s acquisition of Greg Schiano from Rutgers a year ago. Aforementioned Harbaugh left the college game after an Orange Bowl win, but Stanford football is a much different beast than the nationally prominent powerhouses.
Carroll won a pair of national championships with one of, if not the most recognizable program in college football. But Carroll also faced down impending sanctions at USC when he accepted the Seattle Seahawks’ offer.
The upper echelon college programs are better equipped to directly compete with the NFL than in decades past. The Philadelphia Eagles might offer Brian Kelly a new challenge, but neither he nor his staff will be eating sack lunches if Notre Dame ponies up for an extension.