U of M Still Refuses to Pay Up Like the B1G Boys and That’s Why PJ Fleck’s Best Coaches Are Leaving…


**Update — (10:23 AM CT | 2/25/20): Ryan Day gets extension and raise at Ohio State — 2020 Salary Table Updated Below with new notes

I’ve said rather positive things about the University of Minnesota since erecting this website and all of its social medias 3 years ago… but today will not be like that.

I thought the days of our Athletic Department penny pinching were over. I thought we had seen the light… that investing in your athletic department (mostly football and basketball) is the key to high-major university success in 2020… It turns out, I’m an idiot (my wife was right all along).

But I’ve found out, over the last 24 hours, that’s definitely NOT the case… well, depending on what sport we are looking at.

Football and Men’s Basketball are the only sports that make any money at most universities, due to Title 9 (everyone/everything is equal even though it’s not equal) terrorism. You want to talk fair? Football and basketball make $35M+ for the University of Minnesota. Every other sport loses money. Yet, everyone gets the same slice of pie…

Great business model amid skyrocketing tuition costs and a million other financial strains currently suffocating athletic departments around the country… but that’s a controversial blog for another day. Every college campus that offers athletics, at every level, is dealing with the Title 9 neusse.


This is about the University of Minnesota specifically, because they’ve somehow convinced many football fans around the state, that they’ve opened up their historically tight pocket books, just like other schools around the Big Ten…. but it’s all fake news.

While coaching staffs from around the conference, including West foes like Purdue and Iowa…. not to mention Big Ten bottom-dwellers like Rutgers and Northwestern, are chilling up in the champagne room, smoking cigars and flirting with the best recruits; PJ Fleck and his staff are still having their University credit card denied in the lobby.

Ryan Burns (@RyanBurnsMN) of GopherIllustrated.com (247Sports) got me started down this rabbit hole. He deep dove this last week. You can read his article on the topic HERE and subscribe for Gopher Illustrated HERE (paid). If you’d like to listen to him dive into all of this, his podcast from Wednesday (HERE) spends about 15 minutes on it.

Let’s start with a salary table from 2019 so you can see exactly what I am talking about (2020 table coming later down the scroll). This 2019 information came from USA Today sports. They collect this contract info on all of the major schools every year.

These numbers are from BEFORE PJ Fleck’s last extension.

Information via USA Today Sports (sports.usatoday.com)

Rank School Head Coach’19 HC $’19 Staff $’19 Total $
1Michigan Jim Harbaugh$7.5M $6M $13.5M
2Ohio State Ryan Day$4.5M $7.2M $11.7M
3PurdueJeff Brohm$6.6M $3.5M $10.1M
4Penn StateJames Franklin$5.7MN/AN/A
5NorthwesternPat Fitzgerald$5.1MN/AN/A
6IowaKirk Ferentz$4.8M$4.7M$9.5M
7NebraskaScott Frost$5.0M$4.5M$9.5M
8Michigan StateMike Dantonio$4.4M$4.9M$9.3M
9WisconsinPaul Chryst$4.2M$4.4M$8.6M
10IllinoisLovie Smith$4.0M$3.5M$7.5M
11Minnesota PJ Fleck$3.1M $3.1M $6.2M
12MarylandMike Locksley$2.5M$3.7M$6.2M
13RutgersChris Ash$2.3M$3.2M$5.5M
14IndianaTom Allen$1.8M$3.7M$5.5M

So, there is PJ and his staff, sitting at the #11 spot in the Big Ten. Honestly, I don’t have that much to be mad at for 2019’s pay, especially for PJ Fleck. Sure, I knew he was sent from God/aliens a long time ago, but I can’t expect everyone to see the future.

The most curious part of last year’s contract structure was the assistant coaching staff pool. Between head coach and the pool of money for his assistant coaches, the split is somewhere around 50/50, on average.

Some guys make way more than their assistant pool, like Jeff Brohm (Purdue); while some others have staff pools that double that of the head coach, like Ohio State as they transitioned from Urban Meyer to rookie head coach, Ryan Day.

Interestingly enough though, Minnesota had the smallest amount of money for assistant coaches, of any school in the Big Ten. We don’t know about Penn State or Northwestern’s assistant coaches because those schools don’t have to report as public institutions, but with their coaches being paid in the top-half of the conference, I doubt either pool falls beneath the Gophers. Remember, the average is ~50/50 split between HC $ and staff pool $.

PJ Fleck and Staff Get Bump…. but So Does Everyone Else

Fast-forward to the present. PJ Fleck got an extension back in November that boosted his pay $1.5M for 2020. His staff got a small bump too ($700K). Then, they beat Auburn in the Outback Bowl. We all celebrated and dreamed of the future.

Then….. the purge.

  • December 15: Defensive Line Coach, Jim Panagos leaves for Rutgers
  • December 26: Offensive Coordinator, Kirk Ciarrocca leaves for Penn State
  • February 16: Cornerbacks Coach, Rod Chance leaves for Oregon

I should probably apologize for my hate piece on Kirk Ciarrocca when he left. Sure, he got boosted up to $1M/yr with Fleck’s extension but what did Penn State offer him (we don’t know because they don’t have to report)? I bet it was hundreds of thousands more. I can’t hate a guy for raking in pay days like that.

It’s funny though, with Fleck’s extension, we were sold a bill of goods that had us thinking the University of Minnesota was ready and willing to play with the big boys of the Big Ten… but they really weren’t.

After some other raises and coaching changes around the conference throughout the offseason… here is how the Minnesota coaching staff is getting paid, compared to the rest of the Big Ten.

**Updated after Day extension with Ohio State

  • PJ Fleck now sits in 9th place — up 2 spots
  • PJ Fleck’s staff pool now sits in tied for 12th place — up 2 spots
  • The Minnesota coaching staff REMAINS in 11th place

Data from table below was collected from various resources (Values that have changed are marked with * — They are also bold and have links attaching them to the source — If no contract changes were made from 2019-2020, values were transferred from the table above and marked in italic belowMore notes below table

Please let me know if you find any inaccuracies or data that has updated more recently than what I have below – [email protected]

2019 SchoolHead Coach’20 HC $’20 Staff $’20 Total $
1Michigan Jim Harbaugh $8.0M* $6.0M $14.0M
2Ohio State**Ryan Day$6.4M**$6.2M* $12.6M
13Rutgers Greg Schiano* $4.0M* $7.7M* $11.7M
8Michigan StateMel Tucker*$5.5M* $6.0M* $11.5M
4Penn StateJames Franklin$5.7M N/AN/A
3PurdueJeff Brohm$6.6M $3.5M $10.1M
5Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald $5.2M N/A N/A
6IowaKirk Ferentz$4.8M$4.7M$9.5M
7NebraskaScott Frost$5.0M$4.4M*$9.4M
9Wisconsin Paul Chryst $4.2M $4.4M $8.6M
11Minnesota PJ Fleck $4.6M* $3.8M* $8.4M
10IllinoisLovie Smith$4.0M$4.1M*$8.1M
14IndianaTom Allen$3.9M*$3.8M*$7.7M
12Maryland Mike Locksley $2.5M $3.7M $6.2M
  • Lovie Smith‘s salary stays the same for 2020 but his staff got a raise.
  • OSU’s Staff pool went down $1M (for now) because QB Coach/Pass Game Coordinator, Mike Yurcich left for Texas
  • James Franklin is sitting on a contract extension. He and Penn State are working out some “red tape” before he signs it…
  • Indiana more than doubled the pay of Tom Allen, after a successful 2019
  • Mike Dantonio Retired amid controversy and Michigan State hired Mel Tucker away from Colorodo in controversial fashion — also paying him more than they paid Dantonio…
  • Rutgers hired Greg Schiano with a contract that gave his staff pool nearly double what he will receive, and put them #2 overall in the conference overall.
  • **Ryan Day’s contract extension on Feb. 25 is reportedly worth $5.375M in base pay, with a $1M contribution to his retirement on Dec. 31. Come 2022, his salary will increase to $7.6M. He was set to make less than PJ Fleck, at $4.5M before today.

Many have PJ Fleck as the hottest college football coach in the entire country. I have no doubt in my mind, especially after what Michigan State just did, that PJ could go out on the open market and get offers that rival $6 million per season, with a staff pool that matches.

Yet here we are, not even one game into a brand new contract extension, and instead PJ Fleck finds himself behind his colleagues in the Big Ten yet again.

Let’s take Rutgers, for example. They are so committed to turning around their football program, that they’ve launched themselves into the #2 team in the entire Big Ten, for football coach investment.

Then you have Purdue and Nebraska, who are paying their coaches more than PJ Fleck and Co., to suck.

Mark Coyle gave an interview the last time Richard Pitino signed an extension, and talked a lot about turning Minnesota into a “destination school”… a place where coaches dream of going and are willing to settle down forever, if given that long. He said his goal was to move away from the idea that Minnesota is a transitional school, where coaches make pit stops before taking dream jobs.

Well how in the fuck are we supposed to become a destination school for coaches if we aren’t willing to outspend horseshit Big Ten schools like Rutgers and Illinois, for the best coaches?

Guess what problem PJ Fleck is dealing with this offseason??? Assistant coaches leaving for jobs with higher-paying salaries… Turnover on a good coaching staff is going to happen but all of the Gopher assistant coaches who have moved on this winter, have all made lateral moves to other schools, where the pay for their same position, was more money.

It’s time to take our toe out of the deep end, while we stand dry on the deck. If we want to swim with the big boys in the Big Ten, then let’s take off our arm floaties and tell our mom to go home. It’s time to sink or swim.

Luckily, we have another chance to fix this after PJ Fleck wins 10 or 11 games again this year. When that happens, it’ll be time to pin his name to the top of the Big Ten’s $$$ rankings because if we won’t, someone else from the SEC will.

Pay him and he will stay… or don’t, and he won’t. Then, where will the University of Minnesota football team be? We’ll be watching PJ Fleck coach in College Football Playoffs while we start rifling through coaches every 4 years again.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan