Sitting back and watching it unfold, it has been interesting to see just what shape this East Carolina Pirates coaching search takes.
It is clear that Athletic Director Jeff Compher wants to make a big hire that signals to everyone that the Pirates expect to be among the best teams in the group of five. There is an unspoken hope from ECU that with a great hire and a team that wins the AAC, they could make a jump into a power five conference.
So, what could be holding up the Pirates from backing up a dump truck full of money to a prospective coach's porch and poaching him from his current job?
Well to put is simply, the contract for Ruffin McNeill states that he will get the $400,000 in base salary over through July of 2018 unless he takes another job.
Even then, the Pirates are on the hook for whatever salary difference there is between $400,000 and what he is paid at his possible new job. Compher has to be hoping that McNeill takes a job that will get ECU out of that possible money pit. As of right now, the Pirates are on the hook for nearly $1.1 million to be paid to McNeill if he stays out of coaching through July of 2018.
For ECU, that is an issue. Hypothetically, can they really afford to pay McNeill that type of money while paying the buyout for a Jeff Brohm for example? I am not saying Brohm is even a viable option. I am only using him as an example.
Just say that the Pirates did target the WKU head coach.
According to Brohm's contract, the Pirates would have to pay a $1.2 million buyout to poach him from the Hilltoppers. Just, for fun, let's say that he is given the same contract as McNeill, something that will not happen. Without adding in all bonuses, McNeill made $1,471,100 in 2015, good for sixth among AAC coaches. Let's slip a coach like Brohm in at that rate and see what ECU could be paying this season for football coaches.
McNeill's Money Owed: $400,000
Brohm's Buyout: $1,200,000
Brohn's Salary: $1,471,000
Total 2016 Money Spent: $3,071,000
My math says that ECU would be paying $3,071,000 for football coaches in 2016. That is if the Pirates gave a new head coach the same money as McNeill was making. If they decided to "prove" they are a big time destination and gave their new coach more than Tommy Tuberville at Cincinnati, that amount in 2016 would jump to $3.8 million. At that point, we are not even taking into account the cost of bringing in a brand new assistant coaching staff for the new coach.
So, if you are Compher, can you really make that splash hire and afford to pay over three million dollars for a new coach, or do you go with someone with a lower buyout that makes more sense financially? Don't forget, after the first $400,000 payment to McNeill, you still owe him approximately $700,000 more if he stays unemployed.
In recent years, the East Carolina athletic budget has been in the negative, not counting subsidies. I do not count subsidies due to the fact that nearly every school has a different way of calculating them. The school is in the process of raising athletics fees from $631 per student to nearly $700 per student by the 2017 school year, a number that would send over $15 million to the athletic department on a yearly basis.
It has been reported that East Carolina will announce a new head coach during a press conference on Saturday. Do not be surprised if the coach that is hired by the Pirates is hired due to the fact that he does not cost the athletics department nearly as much as other options.