Alabama had a disappointing 2014 season — by Alabama standards, that is — as the Crimson Tide lost in the College Football Playoff semifinal to Ohio State.
But in reality, it was another productive year in Tuscaloosa. The Tide added another SEC championship, and revenues continue to climb within the football program.
So Nick Saban decided to reward all of his assistant coaches with contract extensions and raises — except Lane Kiffin.
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There’s a good reason for this.
According to al.com’s report, the three-year deal Kiffin signed with Alabama paid him $680,000 last year and will pay him the same amount in 2015. If Kiffin sticks around Alabama for 2016 (he may have head coaching opportunities after this season), he will make $714,000 from the Tide. That’s not Kiffin’s total compensation, though, since he’s still being paid by USC after being fired by the Trojans in 2013.
"Due to his former relationship with USC, Kiffin is in a unique situation that does not require an amendment to his original contract with UA," Alabama said in a statement to al.com.
This means Kiffin is still probably making a few million dollars per year to coach, with his Alabama salary detracting from the total amount USC must pay him (USC is a private university and therefore doesn’t have to disclose contract terms).
Still, given Kiffin’s success last season in his first as the leader of Bama’s offense — the Tide ranked 14th in the nation in yards per play (6.66) and 16th in scoring offense (36.9 points per game), and Kiffin also developed Blake Sims into a very good starting quaterback in less than a year — he’s a massive bargain for Alabama at the current cost. At $680,000, Kiffin may be the biggest coordinator bargain in the country.
The biggest winner on Saban’s staff in the latest round of raises is defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, who got a year added to his deal (now signed through 2018) and a $150,000 raise to $1.5 million. Smart is one of the most highly regarded assistants in the country and a candidate for open head coaching jobs every offseason.
At this rate, though, is Smart’s best option waiting it out in Tuscaloosa for Saban to retire and then, presumably, getting the don’s highest recommendation to take over the Tide? It’s hard to think of a better situation for Smart, who’s entering his ninth season with Alabama. He’s making a ton of money, and as Saban’s DC he will maintain the high value of his coaching stock until he gets the chance to take over one of the nation’s preeminent programs. The biggest risk for Smart is taking a mid-tier Power 5 job — we’re seeing a trend in college football of athletic directors valuing prior head coaching experience for the premier jobs (Florida, Texas, Michigan, et al.) — and producing mediocre results.
If I were Smart, I’d keep cashing those huge checks at Alabama, keep learning the details of running a powerhouse program from Saban and keep competing for national titles while you await the keys to the kingdom.