A spokesman for the American Football Coaches Association said the organization had no comment on Meyer's contract or what impact it might have on salaries overall.
According to a USA Today report on salaries, 58 of 120 FBS head coaches are making at least $1 million a year, a figure that presumes seven-figure salaries for coaches at that level or higher for private institutions such as Notre Dame, Southern California, Stanford, Brigham Young and Vanderbilt, which aren't required to reveal coaching salaries.
Interestingly, Paterno - the winningest Division I coach of all time with 409 victories - ranked 11th among the 12 Big Ten head coaches for the 2011 season with a salary of $1,022,794. The only Big Ten coach making less than JoePa was Purdue's Danny Hope, at $925,000. Even Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, the highest-paid assistant in the Big Ten, makes $750,000. While Mattison might be the exception, assistant-coach salaries throughout the Big Ten are on the rise as well.
According to the USA Today figures, the average salary went from $1.4 million in 2006 to $2.125 million in 2011, meaning Paterno was making almost half of the average.
The nearly 85-year-old Paterno, fired on Nov. 9 in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal, never gave the impression that money was the most important thing in his life. So, for much of his legendary career, he gave Penn State a sizable hometown discount. That won't be the case as new university president Rodney Erickson and acting athletic director David M. Joyner go about the important business of selecting a new coach to oversee a multimillion-dollar football program that for decades had been synonymous with Paterno.
The quaint notion that Penn State can cherry-pick Paterno's successor at rock-bottom rates - because well, it's Penn State - is as far gone as the days when Beaver Stadium had a seating capacity of 48,000 and had difficulty filling all of those seats.
Reports indicate that Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is the front-runner for the Penn State job. Mullen signed a four-year contract worth $10.6 million, with a $1.4 million buyout, after the 2010 season - and a reported flirtation with the University of Miami. A raise from his annual salary of $2.65 million would seem like a necessity, if he were to move to Penn State.
Kent was asked if PSU would have to overpay, given the messy situation the new coach would inherit.
"It depends," said Kent, who co-authored a research paper, "Determinants of Coaching Salaries in FBS Football," that will be published early next year in the Journal of Sport Management. "If they hire internally - or 'within the family' - it will cost them somewhat less.
"Logic would dictate that there would be a premium to be paid for having to be the person to come into a very tough situation, however that is from the outside looking in.
"Within the football-coaching community, Penn State is a plum job and the fact that expectations might be a little lower than usual might actually be beneficial. Most coaches (who necessarily live in a relatively isolated world) think Paterno got a raw deal and won't hesitate to take the job. Overall, while I don't think that PSU will have to pay a premium, they are crazy if they think they can get anyone good for $1 million. Those days are over."
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