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Martin’s pay cut illustrates Notre Dame’s improved assistant salaries

Feb 4, 2014, 1:20 PM EDT

David Sayler, Chuck Martin David Sayler, Chuck Martin

After spending four seasons with Brian Kelly at Notre Dame, Chuck Martin got his opportunity to run his own football program, taking the Miami (Ohio) job in early December. But apparently he had to take a pay cut to make the move.

While the news is illustrative of the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots in college football, it also is another datapoint that dispels the lingering myth that Notre Dame doesn’t pay its assistant coaches competitively.

Finding out with any certainty what Brian Kelly is being paid is difficult, especially with Notre Dame a private institution. But assistant salaries is even harder to determine, with money and terms only estimated, even for those in the know. But the Toledo Blade caught up with Martin, who discussed candidly the dilemma some established assistant coaches find themselves in.

Miami acquired Martin only after he agreed to forgo $650,000 at Notre Dame, a figure the Irish were willing to sweeten to coax him into staying. Martin, who received a five-year deal at Miami for $450,000 annually, said he wouldn’t have left “for just any MAC job” and was confident the infrastructure at Miami is sufficient to revitalize a program coming off a winless season.

“I think the (top schools) are trying to put you in a position that you can’t take these jobs, which makes sense; they are trying to keep their assets in house and eliminate as many possibilities for them moving in another direction,” Martin said. “There aren’t too many people crazy enough to do what I did.”

Martin’s comments give you a rare window inside the hiring process of non-elite programs, and the challenges that come with staying competitive if your football program isn’t a revenue generator. For Martin, who ran his own program at Grand Valley State before joining Kelly in South Bend, the allure of taking his shot, and being confident that the program’s assets were being deployed properly, gives you an idea of the gamble coaches take on themselves.

It’s easy to understand why Bob Diaco left Notre Dame, with his five-year contract at UConn paying him a reported $1.5 million a season. (If there was a worry that teams in the new AAC conference would stop investing in their programs, Diaco’s contract all but kills that assertion.)

But it’s also illuminating that Martin was being paid $650,000 by Notre Dame, and Kelly and athletic director Jack Swarbrick were willing to sweeten that deal to keep him in South Bend. That helps put into context the deal parameters Kelly likely had to work with when hiring Brian VanGorder, who may have only been coaching linebackers for the New York Jets, but has a coordinator quote of $850,000 annually, a number that was the top of the heap in college football in 2012.

Put simply, Notre Dame is willing to pay for elite coaches. Ultimately, Swarbrick and Kelly are looking at their assistants as investments, keeping “their assets in house,” as Martin said. That was clear when Mike Elston reportedly turned down the defensive coordinator job at UConn to stay on as defensive line coach, a job that likely pays more than Diaco was able to offer.

Kelly has repeatedly talked about encouraging his coaches to leave for “leadership” positions. You can read that as head coaching jobs, with Martin, Diaco and Charlie Molnar before him all getting their shots to run programs.

As the gap widens economically in the coaching ranks, you can expect to see schools take shots on less traditional coaches, with guys like Elston and Tony Alford potentially more viable candidates than an established coordinator who’ll be taking a significant pay cut to lead a MAC program.

That’s good news for all parties involved, making Notre Dame and Brian Kelly an even more enviable place to work.

  1. fnc111 - Feb 4, 2014 at 1:59 PM

    Martin will make the money back someday. He has the IT factor for being a great HC. He won’t last more than three seasons at Miami and some bigger school will be offering him millions.

    • dickasman - Feb 4, 2014 at 2:20 PM

      I don’t look at it as a good thing where these “ass,sistants” leave for half baked programs. Bk must be lobsterfacing the assistants in lieu of the players.

  2. dickasman - Feb 4, 2014 at 2:14 PM

    LOL… Back in the day, that could’ve qualified as being honorable. Today? It’s called STOOPID! What a moron, takes a paycut to leave ND. I’m not chuck martins left nut even so I dunno what he’s thinking was but he must’ve not been happy w his personal development at ND. I didn’t think he did anything great where he deserved a head coaching position but either way good luck.

  3. dickasman - Feb 4, 2014 at 2:23 PM

    Just another person thinking that they’re better than they actually are. Yeay gooooo Facebook!

    Having said that I’m not upset he’s gone. I think he was on his way out one way or the other

    • dickasman - Feb 4, 2014 at 2:25 PM

      Or I was thinking just maybe, maybe stone cold said so.

      • don74 - Feb 4, 2014 at 3:26 PM

        slow day for you? Commenting on your own comments………….LOL

      • dickasman - Feb 5, 2014 at 1:03 AM

        With this bunch, yeah. Quick go get me some Viagra, cialis, cocaine, escorts and jumbo tron!!!!

  4. jerseyshorendfan1 - Feb 4, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    Somewhere online I saw a list of the highest paid public employees state by state. For the most part, they were that state university’s football, or in some cases basketball, coach. A few states had the dean of the medical school at that state’s university as the highest paid. Shows where our priorities lie as a nation.

    • mcirish27 - Feb 4, 2014 at 3:57 PM

      Are you very surprised by that? It’s been the case for 10 or more years now. Major collegiate sports make as much money as they do because the product they put out is high quality – and the coaches of those programs deserve the rewards of building that product into a high-quality one. Yes, the Dean of the top Medical school may not earn as much, yes, that means our priorities aren’t perfect but the market has been shaped this way over dozens and dozens of years.
      Depending on whether you prefer college or professional sports, these coaches are arguably at the highest level of their profession and they chose a profession that pays well if they’re good enough. Good for them.

      Jim Calhoun could have been MUCH more tactful, but he was right back in 2009 – he deserves his paycheck.

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Feb 5, 2014 at 3:07 PM

        mcirish…your answer seems to imply that there is a direct correlation between one’s coaching ability and a team’s success and that because of this correlation the coaches deserve to share the spoils and be paid exorbitant salaries. We have had, like many other programs, some coaches whose W-L record doesn’t merit the kind of salary they received. I believe we may still be paying some (or at least 1) of them. The players win the games, sometimes in spite of their coach’s best efforts to lose. Should they participate in this revenue stream? After all, they are the “product” that you speak of. And to answer your question, no, I am not very surprised. I am 53 and live in NJ….nothing surprises me anymore.

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Feb 4, 2014 at 10:46 PM

      Here’s the article you’re referring to

  5. oleolehey - Feb 4, 2014 at 3:46 PM

    Many fine coaches, including Ara started in Oxford. It’s a much better gig than UMass or UConn. He has Ohio, Michigan, and Chicago as recruiting targets. He will do well. But it will take several years as the roster is very thin.
    Good luck, Chuck.

  6. 25kgold - Feb 4, 2014 at 4:13 PM

    What could’ve been:

  7. viktory2013 - Feb 4, 2014 at 6:38 PM

    None of these assistants are by any means indispensible; they’re decent, reliable coaches, but ultimately it’s Kelly’s program to make or break, just like it was Ara’s or Holtz’s. It’s a gutsy move by Martin to take a substantial pay cut to leave a stellar program like Notre Dame for a dead in the water ( at least for now) Miami. Guess he figures if things go south for him there, he can always pick up another assistant’s spot somewhere.

  8. jem5b - Feb 4, 2014 at 7:01 PM

    When “Bear”Bryant was questioned about his making more money then the President of Chair of any dept. at Alabama, his quote was sometthing like this:
    “When they can get 85k into a stadium on a Sat. in the fall for a calculus final, they will be deserving.”

  9. mtflsmitty - Feb 4, 2014 at 10:40 PM

    A guy named, Dylan Fenton posted the following on another site re which school has better football tradition. I thought it was worth re-posting. Props to Mr. Fenton.

    ND: -1st in consensus NC (11) usc has 6 – 1st claimed + unclaimed national championships (22) usc has 17 -1st in Heismans (7) USC has 6 -1st in NCAA football HOF -1st in all time win % -Tied for 1st in NFL players drafted -1st in consensus all -Americans -Leads the ND-USC rivalry -Produced best football player of all time: Joe Montana -Bigger fan base -More Tradition -Better Academics -“some teams play college football… Notre Dame is college football.” Don’t get me wrong I personally believe USC is the 2nd greatest football program in history but ND is easily #1

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