As AC/DC said back in 1990: “Listen to the Moneytalk.”
Money is a fickle thing, and oftentimes you have to spend it to make more. ETSU has shown it is fully ready and able to spend money. After the football team went 4-7 last season, Carl Torbush announced his retirement. Shortly after, ETSU announced the signing of Randy Sanders at $255,000 a year for the next four years.
However, like most coaching contracts are nowadays, there is more incentive the more Sanders wins. Sanders is set to make an extra $7,500 for every win the team has above .500 (which means winning at least five games). If ETSU is at the top of the Southern Conference, Sanders will make an extra $20,000.
Sanders is starting out making slightly under what Torbush made, but with the chance to make much more through incentives. For comparison, most teams at the bottom of the SoCon rankings are hard pressed to offer over $200,000. VMI, who finished last in the SoCon, the only team behind ETSU, spent under $150,000 per year. The next team above ETSU was Chattanooga.
Chattanooga recently had a head coaching change as well. The 2016 season ended with the Mocs going 9-4 and finishing third in the SoCon. The school offered Russ Huesman a raise of $325,000 to remain at Chattanooga. Unfortunately, he left to go to Richmond. Chattanooga finished with a record of 3-8 without him.
Another big move by ETSU was to extend head men’s basketball coach Steve Forbes’ contract. He is now guaranteed $650,000 a year until 2023. Interestingly, UNC-Greensboro, SoCon tournament champions this season, also gave their head coach a contract extension in the fall of 2017. UNC-Greensboro coach Wes Miller is set to make $242,788 next season.
By the numbers, ETSU is looking to spend over $900,000 in base salaries for just football and men’s basketball head coaches. This is a far cry from the millions spent on athletics at major schools, but ETSU is poised to spend major money now on the promise of future success.
It’s a bet that could very well pay off. Let’s take a look at arguably the most popular football team in the state: The University of Tennessee Volunteers. Back in 2016, it was reported that UT earned around $70 million off their football program. That season they went 9-4 (4-4 in SEC play). Compare this to the University of Alabama: they earned almost half that while going 14-1 on the season. The facts are there: wins don’t factor in to how much money a program earns.
In basketball, it is estimated that March Madness alone grosses over a billion dollars a year. Last year, ETSU represented the Southern Conference and earned $1.7 million for the SoCon. This money is spread out to the teams in the conference. Therefore, a salary of $650,000 doesn’t seem that bad, assuming the team makes it back by earning a trip to the NCAA tournament.
It’s a calculated risk, but a risk all the same. Coach Randy Sanders will be beginning his first season as a head coach in the fall, and Steve Forbes has shown potential for long-standing success, despite a disappointing end to the 2017-18 season. ETSU has dreams of being a powerhouse in the SoCon, and is now spending the money to become that. Only time will tell if ETSU will become regular contenders or chronic over-spenders.