COACHING EXPIRY DATES, FLUFFY WHITE DOGS, AND JIM TRESSEL

Jim Tressel's raiseless contract extension brings up all kinds of questions, including this burning one: what the hell does Jim Tressel spend money on? His house has to be paid off now, the kids' tuition paid with but a half-fart of the financial intestines, and the rest given to Mrs. Tressel to spend on her tiny white fluffy dogs. 

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Jim Tressel doesn't even know their names, which are conveniently enough "Exhibit A" and "Exhibit B." 

The raiseless extension does bring up Steve Spurrier's rule: that a coach shouldn't stay anywhere longer than a decade. Tressel's market value becomes more niche-dependent with each year he spends at Ohio State, who must compensate him a bit more each year even as they realize that his own value becomes more specific to his current place of employ. 

This is a mistake Nick Saban has never made at any level, switching jobs while maximizing his value and never becoming too sticky or tailored to one place. What Saban does works anywhere you plug him in, which makes him so especially valuable on the open market and not just to one school. In return for paying top dollar for his services, Saban provides one to two championships and an organizational basis for continued success, including overstuffed bins full of blue-chip recruits good enough to get your successor a wildly inflated salary COUGH COUGH LES MILES COUGH.

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Thanks, Nick. 

Past the ten year mark coaches in some sense become paid less for their absolute skill set and more for their specific role as coach of one university. Tressel, Mack Brown, and Frank Beamer are certainly there, and the greatest indicator is their complete absence from coaching searches. Sure, they're happy, and ridiculously well-compensated, but both sides have settled into full-on marriage: too specialized to live anywhere else, and too comfortable to get wandering eyes. 

Which brings up another question: which is the more arrogant bet? Continually keeping your market value at a simmering boil, or counting on being the one guy for the one job for a lifetime's work? Saban, Meyer, Pete Carroll, Bill Parcells in the pros, and Charles Taylor (in the field of mass murder and state destabilization, not football coaching mind you) have all made careers of keeping themselves in demand, and by always leaving the party before the party left them. 

In one sense, it's the more mercenary decision, but it's also the less confident one. Joe Paterno never left Penn State, but part of that was Joe Pa assuming he'd be good enough for long enough to never have Penn State leave him. Ditto for Bobby Bowden, who eventually did have the party leave, but only after a run of success rivalled only by Paterno and Bear Bryant. Those are three cases versus the countless counterexamples who assumed they could weather the storm of angry boosters after a rough patch. (See: Phil Fulmer.) 

It is a choice between two very different varieties of confidence: assuming you can hold down a job for a decade plus, or assuming you can keep up demand and value in five to six year increments. Manage it well one way, and you're Nick Saban, who could name his price wherever and whenever at the moment. Manage it the wrong way and you're Dennis Erickson. 

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