Big Red Business: Spending Big Ten revenue-sharing checks
If you want to know how Nebraska is spending some of its bountiful Big Ten revenue-sharing checks, look no further than the off-field bench strength added in football and other support areas of the athletic department.
Exhibit A: The football program has beefed up its support staff to include seven analysts or quality control assistants who work with head coach Scott Frost, 10 position coaches, and five graduate assistants.
Those analysts include Frank Verducci and Steven Cooper on offense, John Cooper III on defense and Zach Crespo on special teams.
Now for some perspective: Five years ago, no one on the football staff had a job title that specified analyst responsibilities.
That is one key reason why full-time staff in the football program climbed from 22 positions in 2014-2015 to about 32 positions this year, according to university payroll records. In addition, the budgeted salary for the football staff jumped from $6.7 million in 2014-2015 to $12.2 million in the current 2019-2020 fiscal year, including the $5 million paid to Frost, the data showed.
Those budget numbers also take into account an NCAA ruling two years ago that allowed Division I football programs to add a tenth full-time assistant coach.
Indeed, salaries for the football program account for more than 25 percent of the athletic department’s 2019-2020 payroll of about $42.1 million. Five years ago, football accounted for about 15 percent of the department’s payroll of about $29 million.
Other areas of the athletic department have also added more manpower, money for salaries, or both over the past five years, including strength and conditioning, nutrition, athletics medicine and support, life-skills, academics, and the fundraising and development office, according to university records.
As a public institution, the university is required to annually post employee salaries for the entire system -- from deans to janitors, from head coaches and athletic administrators to the training table staff and Memorial Stadium electricians.
HuskerOnline reviewed the pay data from five years ago, along with the numbers from 2018-2019 and the current fiscal year that began in July.
The information provides an interesting roadmap on how the athletic department sets certain spending priorities, especially over the past two years when the department started receiving the full amount of Big Ten revenue sharing. That money is expected to climb to about $55 million this year, up slightly from a year ago.
In some situations, departments that existed five years ago have been consolidated, or entirely new departments were created, such as digital media and nutrition. Job titles have been added too, along with responsibilities being shifted as part of athletic director Bill Moos’ reorganization of the department after taking over in fall 2017.
For example, the football program added Gerrod Lambrecht as chief of staff -- a new position -- when Frost was hired. Lambrecht s the highest-paid football staffer outside of Frost and his assistants. He’ll earn about $382,500 this fiscal year, according to university data.
Nowhere in the payroll data did it show significant drops in staffing and salaries.
In response to questions about staffing and spending, the athletic department issued this statement:
“Nebraska Athletics is committed to being competitive in attracting outstanding staff members to our department, including coaches, administrative and support positions. We have made strong investments in recent years in football, which is our primary revenue driver to remain nationally competitive.
“We continue to be committed to making necessary investments and expanding staff in areas that impact student-athletes’ welfare in an effort to distinguish Nebraska as an industry leader in preparing and caring for student-athletes.”
What does a quality control analyst do?
Many big-time football programs have beefed up their staffs with analysts, quality control coaches or administrative assistants. They’re a cross between graduate assistants and advance scouts.
Nebraska has seven football staffers with the words “quality control” or “analyst” in their job title. In 2014, it had zero.
Frank Verducci is the senior offensive analyst. The veteran coach, who is in his second season on the Nebraska staff, followed Frost to Lincoln after serving as an offensive analyst at the University of Central Florida in Frost’s final season there. Verducci works primarily with the offensive line.
Before serving as an analyst Verducci was an on-field coach for 33 years, with half of those spent with conference rivals Iowa, Maryland, and Northwestern.
He’s joined on offense by Steven Cooper, Dustin Haines, Mike Cassano, and Steve Demeo.
John Cooper III is the defense quality control coach, and Zach Crespo is the special teams quality control coach.
As senior analyst, Verducci earns $153,000, up $3,000 from last season. Most of the others earn anywhere from $45,900 to $80,000.
There is no limit to quality control positions, and some schools have as many as a dozen on their payroll. Alabama was among the first schools to go this direction, and that was about nine years ago.
What’s their job description?
Unlike a graduate assistant, analysts are not allowed to recruit, according to NCAA rules. And unlike graduate assistants, analysts do not need to be enrolled in classes. Many analysts are young coaches looking to move up to a position coach or head coaching job.
“It’s kind of taken to the pro format,” Clay Helton, the head coach at USC told Athlon Sports. “When you look at the NFL, you have the first assistant and second assistant. You have a full-time coach who is actually coaching the position and a quality control that’s getting a lot of the work done for the coach from a cut-up standpoint or computer standpoint. It’s almost like (the assistant coach) has his own assistant for meeting preparation.”
In addition to the quality control positions, Nebraska now has four video coordinators devoted to football. There were two in 2014, based on payroll data.
If recruiting is considered the lifeblood of a successful football program, Nebraska is certainly pumping plenty of resources into it.
In 2014, Nebraska had about six full-time staffers devoted to football recruiting. That’s about the same as now.
But based on dollars, Nebraska is spending more -- about $600,000 this year based on football payroll data, or about twice as much as five years ago.
The current recruiting staff includes Sean Dillon, director of player personnel; Ryan Callaghan, assistant director of player personnel; Trent Mossbrucker, director of recruiting and football administration; Ken Wilhite, director of high school relations; and Jessica Stinger, director of on-campus recruiting.
Nebraska has long been known as a leader in programs designed to support student-athletes. To name a few, along with the staffing and financial resources:
*Academics. The athletic department lists 13 full-time staffers, with salary pegged at $1.21 million. Five years ago, there were 10 full-timers paid about $858,120.
*Life skills. About seven full-time positions are listed this year, with total salary of about $509,000. That’s up from three full-time positions, and payroll of $236,000 in 2014, and up 1 position and about $50,000 from 2018.
*Development/fundraising. Five years ago, there were 10 full-time positions in this department, with total salary of about $666,000. Last year, those numbers were six and $431,689. This year, it has grown to 11 positions and nearly $900,000.
*Athletic medicine. This covers all aspects -- from trainers to surgeons. The current staff of 20 full-time employees has salary allocated at $1.9 million, up from about 13 full-time staff and $1.2 million.
*Nutrition. Newly created a year ago with the return of highly regarded Dave Ellis as the department chief, nutrition has a staff of four and a salary pool of $611,851. A year ago, the staff of four had combined salary of $241,405.
*Strength and conditioning. The performance unit has climbed from 13 full-timers earning a total of $917,518 in 2014 to 16 staffers and a salary pool of $1.55 million.
*Marketing. To promote the brand, the athletic department has a staff of seven full-time employees, with a salary pool of about $743,000, more than twice the amount of money spent five years ago when there was a staff of four.
Other payroll data:
*Three football assistant coaches received $25,000 raises this year: Greg Austin at $500,000; inside linebacker coach Barrett Ruud at $225,000, and Sean Fischer at $325,000. First-year defensive line coach Tony Tuioti, who came from the University of California, is being paid $375,000. He succeeded Mike Dawson, who earned $475,000 last year.
The net salary savings to athletics: $25,000.
*Matt Davison, the associate athletic director for football, is paid $213,180. Former longtime Nebraska assistant coach Ron Brown, now in a non-coaching role as director of player development, earns $183,600. Brown is responsible for community outreach programs.
*The highest paid coach in women’s athletics is volleyball head coach John Cook, who earns $675,000 for running the perennial national championship contender. He’s followed by women’s basketball head coach Amy Williams at $626,750, and softball coach Rhonda Revelle at $250,000.
*The men’s basketball payroll, under new head coach Fred Hoiberg, has climbed to $3.84 million and 8 full-time staffers, from 7 positions at $3.35 million last year, and 8 full-time positions and a salary pool of $2.66 million in 2014-2015. Then head coach Tim Miles earned $652,646 five years ago, and $2.37 million a year ago.
Hoiberg’s first-year salary at Nebraska is $2.5 million.
*The baseball program also underwent a coaching change at the end of the 2019 season. The sport now has a salary pool of $792,621, up from $581,767 in 2014. Keep in mind that former head coach Darin Ersted took a smaller salary to return to his alma mater after a successful major league career.
Steve Rosen writes about the business of sports for HuskerOnline. Questions, comments, story ideas? Reach Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.