How CU and Colorado State aim to keep pace as college football assistant coach salaries skyrocket – The Denver Post

When the Colorado Board of Regents met in February to approve the Buffaloes’ new football assistant coaching contracts, John Kroll from the state’s first congressional district applied one specific term to the new high-priced salaries: “Unpalatable.”

The total is eye-popping. CU’s 10 full-time assistant coaches will combine to make $3.35 million this fall, an increase of more than $1 million from a year ago. Colorado State will allot $3 million for its staff in 2018. Compared to their peers across college football, though, the Buffaloes’ and Rams’ cash-flow hardly compares.

CU’s highest paid assistant coach is defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot at $700,000. That figure would not crack the top-35 nationally last fall with 15 coordinators raking in seven-digit salaries, according to USA Today’s database.The discrepancy is even greater at Colorado State without Power Five revenue. Former offensive coordinator Will Friend, who’s now at Tennessee, was the Rams’ highest earner among CSU assistant coaches in 2017 at $540,000.

Atop the list nationally: LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda at $1.8 million.

“Legally, I don’t think you can ever put a cap on it,” CU athletic director Rick George said of the rising salaries. “But it’s certainly something that we look at. We’re never going to have the top salaries here at Colorado. I think we have a lot more to offer than money, but that’s important to a lot of people and we certainly want to be competitive.

“Hopefully, those things will slow down.”

Even then, CU and CSU won’t stand idle in college football’s assistant coaching contract arms race — and they have the Colorado legislature system to thank. Public institutions in the state, including universities funded with tax-payer dollars, were previously limited on the availability of multi-year contracts for employees. At CU, CSU and other state schools, that meant no more than six multi-year contracts per institution and term lengths no greater than five years.

When the Buffs hired Mike MacIntyre as head coach in 2012, he was the only football staff member with the security of a multi-year commitment from the university, a burden that opposing Pac-12 teams did not face.

“It was harder to get coaches,” MacIntyre said, “and sometimes harder to keep coaches.”

But change was afoot. State senator Kevin Priola, a CU graduate, helped lead the charge to pass Senate bill 17-041, which would allow self-funded auxiliaries, such as university athletic programs, to be exempt from restrictions on multi-year contracts. The bill arrived on Governor John Hickenlooper’s desk in March 2017 and it was signed into law. The change went into effect in August, but CU leadership did its homework first before fully implementing new deals for its football staff in February.

CU provided multi-year contracts to nine of its 10 assistant football coaches. Eliot and co-offensive coordinators Darrin Chiaverini and Klayton Adams were given three-year deals. The rest of the coaches were provided two-year contracts with the exception of tight ends coach Gary Bernadi who remains on a one-year deal.

“It really puts us at the same competitive level that our peers are at,” George said. “I think it’s great that we can show our commitment to coaches for a longer period of time.”