Ohio State football: Buckeyes stay competitive in hefty salary market for assistants

All week long, our Land of 10 reporters following the Buckeyes will address pressing questions on the minds of the Ohio State fan base with our new daily feature. To ask Austin Ward a question, follow along on Twitter and suggest a topic right here. Check back Monday through Friday as we dive into the Ohio State Question of the Day. Go here to see all of our previous answers.

There was a time when it seemed clear that Ohio State was falling behind as salary pools around the country for coveted assistant coaches were skyrocketing. But that was a problem for the Buckeyes a decade ago; I don’t really see it as one now.

There is, in fact, room for Gene Smith’s athletic department to spend a little more on assistants, and generally Ohio State doesn’t like being ranked No. 13 in anything. But in this case, checking in at that spot suggests that the Buckeyes are willing to loosen up the pursestrings when they need to and have stepped up the financial commitment when it comes to surrounding Urban Meyer with the talent and cultural fits he wants in the program. With a total salary pool for assistants of $4.485 million, simply spreading $200,000 around for those nine guys would be enough to move up the No. 9 spot, so Ohio State isn’t exactly clipping coupons.

Is Ohio State paying as much as Michigan? No, but that’s the only team in the Big Ten spending more than the Buckeyes, and so far those extra bucks haven’t done anything to stop a six-game losing streak in The Game for the Wolverines. Maybe Ohio State simply needs to save some money to keep buying gold pants every year.

Another part of this equation: Some of these productive, steady coaches don’t need a massive pay raise to be happy working in Columbus. I’m sure Zach Smith would gladly cash a larger check if Ohio State wants to give him one after his Zone 6 unit of wide receivers enjoyed a breakout season. But he’s also an assistant at the school he was a fan of since he was born, which is probably a wonderful, non-financial bonus. And if somebody tried to pry away somebody such as Larry Johnson, there is no doubt in my mind that Meyer would do everything possible to exceed that offer and keep him in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Larry Johnson-Urban Meyer-Ohio State-Buckeyes
Larry Johnson and Urban Meyer have a close relationship on the Ohio State staff. (Land of 10/file photo)

The coordinators also are being compensated pretty well compared to their peers, even if there are 38 of them that currently make more than Greg Schiano and the $700,000 he earned this season. And Ohio State really isn’t in a position where the salary pool is causing it to lose coaches for lateral moves in the profession. There is something to be said for the value of competing for championships, working for a program that commits resources to the program as a whole and provides an opportunity under Meyer that tends to get assistants head-coaching jobs down the road. That all factors in beyond the numbers in the bank account.

Of course, it’s also not my money we’re talking about — either to spend or to earn. And Smith has coaches who are almost certainly due raises, so that ranking is bound to improve for Ohio State no matter what.

Read more answers to questions about the Ohio State Buckeyes here

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