U of M to tap new sources to fund next football coach

Tim Brewster
Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster, center, on the sidelines after the team lost to Northern Illinois 34-23 on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010 in Minneapolis. Brewster was fired today.
Tom Olmscheid/AP

What's the going rate for a good college football coach -- $2 million a year? $3 million? Maybe even four?

The University of Minnesota is about to find out. After firing Tim Brewster over the weekend, the university wants to hire a new coach who will turn the team around after years of losing seasons.

University officials say they're prepared to give the next coach a pay raise, but to find that money they'll need to tap several sources.

Brewster made $1 million a year as coach of the Golden Gophers football team, and that's on the low side in the Big 10.

Ohio State pays their coach $3.7 million. Iowa forks over $3 million. Michigan: $2.5 million.

University of Minnesota Athletics Director Joel Maturi admits the next football coach won't take home that kind of money.

"We can't compete with the $4 million coaches, we can't compete with the $3 million institutions. We can't go down that path, it's not the right thing to do for any institution and certainly not for the University of Minnesota," he said.

Maturi says to attract the kind of coach who can turn the Gophers into a winning program, they will need to sweeten the deal. Maturi doesn't have a starting salary down on paper, but thinks it should at least match what the university pays its head basketball coach.

"We pay Tubby Smith about $1.8 million a year," Maturi said. "If we can pay a head basketball coach that I'm assuming we can pay a head football coach that."

DeLeon Eskridge, T.J. McDonald
Minnesota running back DeLeon Eskridge, right, tries to allude Southern California safety T.J. McDonald in the first quarter of their NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 18, 2010 in Minneapolis.
AP Photo/Andy King

That's easy to say, but how does the U come with another million dollars or so to pay its next coach?

Karen Weaver is director of athletics at Penn State-Abington and has done research on Big 10 revenue. "The U is going to have the opportunity as part of the Big 10 conference to gain some additional resources," she said, "and those resources may be redirected toward hiring a coach."

Weaver says the university could use new revenue from an expanding Big 10 to boost the next coach's salary. Nebraska joins the conference next season. With the Huskers comes a new championship game, and millions of dollars in new TV revenue for each Big 10 school.

Offering more money to the next coach may be required by the marketplace, but it comes at a tough time for the university.

The school has lost hundreds of positions for faculty and staff in recent years because of budget cuts at the State Capitol.

And the university's athletics department doesn't currently bring in enough money to cover its own expenses. It's getting $2.3 million from the university this year to subsidize its $76 million budget, support that will slowly phase out in coming years.

So, it might take more than additional Big 10 revenue to pay for the Gophers' next coach. It might come in the form of fundraising.

Bob Hughes, president of the Goal Line Club, a booster group for the Gopher football team, has helped out with some of that fundraising before.

"It takes some big time people to step out and write those big checks," he said.

University of Minnesota Regent Dean Johnson said taking money from boosters is one thing, but no one should expect students to be lining the pockets of the next coach.

Johnson said students and families have already been asked to support the school through tuition increases in recent years.

"I think this resides with the general public and with people who buy tickets and season ticket holders and other folks who wish to contribute," he said.

The question will be whether a $2 million coach is enough for the University of Minnesota when the competition is paying much more.

Athletic Director Maturi says his own expectations are high.

"We haven't won here in a long time. We haven't won a championship since 1967. Haven't been in the Rose Bowl since 1961," he said. "It's time we change those statistics and look from the top level, not from the bottom."

Maturi won't divulge who's on his future coach wish list because he says some are head coaches at other schools. Since Minnesota was the first announce it's looking for a head coach, they will have a jump on other colleges who may start the same process soon.

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