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On-field success and a rising market demand a contract extension and raise for Dave Doeren

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Coaching salaries across college football are getting out of hand, but Doeren deserves a raise

North Carolina State v Georgia Tech Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Sometime soon, I’d expect an announcement to come from NC State about a contract extension and raise for Dave Doeren. Despite signing an extension this spring, Doeren is in line for another one having led the Wolfpack to their third 9-win season in the last five years. With a bowl game still to go, he has an opportunity to lead the program to just the second double-digit win campaign in school history.

The on-field success alone merits an extension, but the market for college football coaches has gone absolutely batty this year. It started in August when Nick Saban signed an 8-year, $84.80 million contract extension. That’s only fair for the guy who managed to go to Alabama and make Bear Bryant look pedestrian. However, the craziness started just a month after Saban’s deal when Texas A&M signed Jimbo Fisher to a 10-year, $95.00 million extension despite Fisher having not topped nine wins in any of his three seasons in College Station.

As the 2021 regular season wound to a close, we saw the following contracts handed out:

  • Mel Tucker, Michigan State, 10 years, $95.00 million, 12-7 record at MSU
  • James Franklin, Penn State, 10 years, $75.00 million, 67-33 at PSU
  • Brian Kelly, LSU, 10 years, $100.00 million, 113-40 at Notre Dame
  • Lincoln Riley, USC, 10 years, $110.00 million, 55-10 at Oklahoma
  • Mario Cristobal, Miami, 10 years, $80.00 million, 35-13 at Oregon

The Kelly and Riley deals aren’t absurd - well, assuming you don’t consider a coach making eight figures per year absurd - considering their records at previous stops, but the Tucker and Franklin deals are shocking. Tucker led Michigan State to a 10-win season this year, but he’s all of 17-14 as a head coach and the program won 10+ games six times (and 11+ in five of those) from 2010-2017 under Mark Dantonio, so it’s not like this is some absurd new height.

After a slow start at Penn State, Franklin went 42-11 from 2016-2019 with 11-win campaigns in three of those years, but he’s just 11-10 over his last two seasons. There were rumors that USC and LSU wanted to hire Franklin, which pushed the administration to offer the contract. His track record is solid and the deal compared to the other ones listed seems completely logical, but given the recent on-field results, upping his 6-year, $35.4 million deal to what they gave him didn’t seem to make sense. Penn State is all but stuck with Franklin now due to the buyout for such a large deal.

Miami paid Cristobal a king’s ransom because he’s everything the program wants: a Miami native and former Hurricanes player and coach with head coaching success at a Power 5 program.

Dave Doeren hasn’t produced at a level of Saban, Fisher (during his Florida State days), Kelly, Riley, or Franklin, and he hasn’t led NC State to a Top 5 ranking like Tucker and Cristobal did this year, but he’s still well in line for a hefty raise.

There are three other contracts to look at to figure where Doeren might be headed.

In early December, Ole Miss signed Lane Kiffin to a 4-year, $29.60 million extension. Kiffin has led the Rebels to a 10-win season this year, just the third time that’s happened for the program since 1971. He’s 15-7 in his two seasons at Ole Miss after the program was 20-28 in the four seasons before his arrival.

News came out last week that Sam Pittman’s agent has asked Arkansas for a 7-year, $50.00 million extension. The Razorbacks started 4-0 this year and reached a Top 10 ranking, but went 4-4 through the rest of the regular season. Pittman is 11-11 in his two seasons at Arkansas, his first head coaching gig. The program went 8-28 in the three seasons prior to his arrival.

Kentucky signed Mark Stoops to a contract extension at the end of November. That deal is a 6-year, $44.25 million extension, and likely to be the one that should be the focal point of Doeren’s agent during negotiations.

Stoops is 58-53 with a 29-45 conference record. Stoops took over Kentucky in 2013, and after a 2-10 (0-8 SEC) mark his first year, has steadily progressed the program to its best 5-year run (39-23) since the early 1950’s.

Doeren is 64-49 with a 34-40 conference record. Doeren took over NC State in 2013, and after a 3-9 (0-8 ACC) mark his first year, has steadily progressed the program to its best 5-year run (39-23) since the early 1990’s.

Doeren has a better overall record and better conference record, but Stoops has faced tougher competition in the SEC than Doeren has in the ACC, and NC State has a better football tradition than Kentucky, although that really doesn’t have any impact in this situation.

Before bonuses, Stoops made $4.80 million this year while Doeren made $3.50 million. Keeping that same pay ratio to account for the differences in pay between the ACC and SEC (which is actually lower than the average; the Top 5 highest paid SEC coaches made an average of $8.14 million in 2021 compared to a $5.42 million average for the Top 5 paid ACC coaches), that would put Doeren in line for a $5.38 million annual deal. At five years (the general running length of Doeren’s contract), that would be a $26.89 million deal.

At the very least, State should look at a deal in line with what Virginia Tech provided to newly hired first-time head coach Brent Pry: a 6-year, $27.50 million contract ($4.58 million annual average value). You’d think Doeren’s recent success would, or at least should, bump up past that.

Most importantly in Stoops deal, the assistant coaching salary pool was increased from $5.45 million per year to $6.50 million per year. NC State’s assistant coaching salary pool was at $3.96 million for the 2020 season. It’s not clear if that amount increased for the 2021 season, but the pool was already set to increase by $300,000 thanks to built in incentives in Doeren’s contract tied to season win totals. That could go up by $400,000 should the Wolfpack win their bowl game.

Bumping up the assistant coaching salary pool will be paramount, and Doeren should push to at least match what Kentucky did in Stoops’ latest contract. That number would put the Wolfpack a hair above Florida State’s 2020 number ($5.36 million) that ranked 2nd in the ACC at the time, and a hair behind what Virginia Tech has budgeted ($5.50 million) for Brent Pry’s first staff in Blacksburg. Miami has guaranteed Cristobal to have the highest assistant coaching salary pool in the ACC, which would mean they’ll need to outpace the $8.42 million that Clemson put up this year.

One common theme for most of the head coaching contracts listed above: Agent Jimmy Sexton. He represents Saban, Fisher, Kiffin, Franklin, and Stoops. Granted, Sexton is not Doeren’s agent, but Sexton has paved the way for whatever agreement comes down the pike (or is it pipe?) for Doeren.

Regardless, he has earned it.