Wisconsin finished its first season under the direction of Paul Chryst at 9-3 and many felt disappointed after winning two Big Ten championships and competing for another since 2011. Such is the nature of a program that has elevated its expectations based on the results on the field.
Getting a division win is a minimum expectation and even in a transition year full of unforeseen injuries and therefore a lot of youth in key positions, this season felt like a turn in the negative direction at times.
Two ugly losses to Iowa and Northwestern in Big Ten play were the poster children for the disappointment many felt within and outside the program.
However, should it be a big surprise when you look at the monetary side of the Badgers football program? Thereâ€™s one little-talked about secret about the Badgersâ€™ recent successes â€” theyâ€™ve been doing it with less than others nationally and inside the Big Ten for a while now.
On Wednesday, USA Today Sports released itâ€™s comprehensive list of FBS assistant coach salaries and to the surprise of no one, the Wisconsin Badgers didnâ€™t make the headlines other than this sad fact â€” Wisconsin is eighth in the Big Ten in assistant coaches salary pool money.
The article points out the Badgersâ€™ salary pool comes to a total ofÂ $2,632,200, which puts it 40th in the FBS rankings.
Thatâ€™s lower than schools like Maryland ($2,783,060), Minnesota ($2,932,000) and Nebraska ($3,450,000). Itâ€™s also just barely ahead of the pace of Rutgers, who paid out ($2,609,450).
On the other hand, Wisconsinâ€™s assistant coaches salary pool also indicates it is getting vastly better results than its counterparts around it. Still, Wisconsin has gone from middling to conference title winners and fans, recruits and players have much higher expectations than being a middle of the pack program any more.
Paying assistants a better wage, a much more competitive wage is part of that. It attracts better coaches, better recruiters and eventually better recruits.
But, the Badgers have been reluctant to get in to the arms race in the ever-increasing million-dollar arms race that is assistant coaches salaries. Earlier this season we highlighted the fact that Dave Aranda, who has put up two (and now three) seasons of amazing results is getting paid at a level far below his production.
Keeping him around is clearly a key component to future success, but will the administration let the purse strings go just a bit…like enough to make him at least a $600,000-a-year defensive coordinator?
No one should be saying the Badgers get in the million-dollar race for an assistant coach, itâ€™s a trend that is completely asinine in a sport that has gone bananas over coaching salaries but canâ€™t seem to find a way to help students out in a meaningful way.
But, being just in the middle of the trend means the Badgers are likely falling behind versus moving forward in the fast-changing world of college football. It doesnâ€™t need to keep up with the mega-mansions of the neighborhood if you will, but what UW does need to do is start competing with schools like Iowa, Nebraska and Michigan State for coaching salaries.
Great coaches will be attracted by more than average pay, so perhaps its time for UWâ€™s staff to be paid better for better results. Itâ€™s really a win-win for everyone involved.