IU ready to pay up for big-time football coach

Indiana University Athletic Director Fred Glass sees a day when the school’s football and basketball coach make the same salary. And no, Tom Crean isn’t about to take a pay cut.

If you consider the history of IU, and the way the school has treated its honored basketball program and second-thought football team, that’s a mighty big statement.

In this week’s IBJ, Glass makes the relatively obvious observation that the school’s football program must be pumped up to increase the athletic department’s revenue. Glass thinks that’s essential for the Hoosiers to compete with the best of the Big Ten in all sports.

And when you look at the numbers, who can argue? Consider: Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State make more in one home football game than IU makes for an entire football season.

Glass details in the article what he intends to do about the problem (and what he already is doing). He’s got more going on at Memorial Stadium than a three-ring circus.

But Glass says he’s not trying to diminish the importance of winning on the gridiron in Bloomington.

“We’re not trying to create the Roman circus where people aren’t paying attention to what else is going on,” Glass said. “I realize winning is the most critical marketing element.”

So here’s the big question facing Glass; Why does basketball coach Tom Crean make more than $2 million annually, and football coach Bill Lynch make $250,000? Lynch makes $600,000 annually if you throw in his media deal, but he’s still the lowest paid Big Ten football coach.

So I asked Glass, where’s the commitment to football? Why the pay disparity? Especially in light of the revenue generation potential. A school can bring in a lot more money with a good football team than it can with a stellar basketball team. Four times as much isn’t a stretch.

Glass pointed out that he inherited Crean and Lynch—and their contracts. Fair point. Glass also says he likes his coaches and has no intention of making a change—not now anyway.

But Glass vowed to make the same commitment in attaining a high-quality football coach as IU has traditionally done in basketball. No matter what you thought about Mike Davis or Kelvin Sampson (and now Tom Crean), IU has always paid at the top of the market for its basketball coach. It must be pointed out here that Bob Knight never demanded top dollar, and never received it.

Glass’ commitment to football doesn’t mean Lynch is out the door. He still has two years on his contract including this one, and Glass is bent on giving him every opportunity to succeed.

Keeping the low-pay coach is certainly giving Glass time to raise revenue and otherwise get IU’s house in order. IU was one of 14 Division I athletic departments with Division I football programs to make money last year (along with Purdue). But not by a wide margin.

“We have a tight budget, and we have to wonder where the money would come from (to afford a top-notch football coach),” Glass said. “We will pay what we need to pay to get the best quality coach.”

Glass could be following Purdue’s lead.

Purdue Athletic Director Morgan Burke said he looks for potential, then when a coach proves he can put the Boilers’ football team toward the top of the Big Ten, he pays them accordingly.

“We like to bring [coaches] in and let them prove themselves,” Burke said. “If they produce, then we’ll consider paying them in the top quartile.”

Either way, Glass is headed toward a critical crossroads. Glass says he wants IU to compete in BCS Bowl Games. Those are big words. But big words are easy to profess. Coming through on the promise is the bigger trick.

In less than two years time, Glass is going to show us how much he really believes in Lynch. He’ll have to significantly increase his pay if he proves he can build IU’s program.

Either that, or let IU’s next national search for a big-time coach begin. In the case of the football program, it could be a new frontier.

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