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As Assistant Coach Pay for NC State increases, so too does the gap within the ACC

The Wolfpack Football program has greatly increased overall assistant coach pay in the last decade, but still falls far behind ACC leader Clemson.

NCAA Football: Clemson Practice Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

While many Wolfpack fans were less than thrilled about Dave Doeren’s flirtation with Tennessee after the 2017 season that resulted in a contract extension and salary increase for the NC State head coach, the one good thing that came out of Doeren’s new deal was that it included an increase of $750,000 per year to the assistant coach salary pool. As much of an arms race as college football has become in the last couple decades with regards to facilities, just as frenetic has been the increase in football coaching pay.

From 2009 to 2019, NC State increased its overall salary pool for assistant coaches by 131%, or an increase of 108% by the average salary per assistant coach (there were nine assistant coaches in 2009, but that moved to ten assistant coaches starting in the 2018 season).

Despite over doubling the average salary per assistant coach, NC State has really just been keeping up with the overall pace of college coaching pay increases. NC State currently ranks fifth among eight ACC schools in assistant coach pay (Boston College, Duke, Miami, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Wake Forest don’t report pay figures as they’re private institutions). That’s the same ranking for NC State as was in 2017, before Doeren signed the above mentioned contract extension that guaranteed the additional pay for assistants. It’s just one spot better than NC State ranked in 2014.

And therein lies the issue: what seemed like a huge increase at the time was really just a matter of keeping up with the neighbors. Moreover, that one-time increase won’t sustain if it’s not continually backed up by even more increases.

There is a bigger concern for NC State (and every other ACC school), though: Clemson. Not only have the Tigers been destroying teams on the field where they haven’t lost a conference game in a time frame that I don’t really care to look up right now because I’m trying to enjoy my day, they’re also outspending every other ACC program and don’t really seem to be slowing down. Clemson’s assistant coaches made a combined $7,410,000 in base salary in 2019. Florida State was second at $5,106,583 and North Carolina third at $4,075,000 (by the way, you can pretty much bet the house that Miami is paying in the same ballpark as FSU).

Going back to that 2009 to 2019 time span, Clemson has increased their overall salary pool for assistant coaches by 299%, or an increase of 259% by the average salary per assistant coach. And in case you thought NC State wasn’t being consistent with the majority of the rest of the conference, over that same span, Florida State has increased their overall salary pool for assistant coaches by 107%, or an increase of 86% by the average salary per assistant coach. Florida State led the ACC in assistant coach pay in 2009 with an overall salary pool of $2,455,808, outpacing a Clemson program that paid their staff a total of $1,857,730 that same year.

Remember when Chuck Amato was hired and it was a big deal because his coaching staff would be the first in NCAA history with over $1,000,000 in base salary for assistant coaches? Yeah, there were 24 assistant coaches in 2019 that made over that number alone - and three of them were on staff at Clemson.

It’s not just a matter of spending money to attract and retain coaches, it’s a matter of spending stupid sums of money - and then backing that up almost immediately with spending even more stupid money.