When Boise State updated football coach Bryan Harsin’s contract earlier this month, two words were added that could have significant meaning.
Harsin negotiated a salary pool for assistant coaches of $2.2 million when he became the head coach in 2014. However, the Broncos never had spent that amount until this year.
The updated contract changed the wording to say the budget will be “at least” $2.2 million, creating a floor for assistant coach spending.
In 2014, Boise State ranked No. 1 among programs in the lower-revenue Group of Five conferences in spending on assistant coaches, according to an annual database produced by USA Today. Last year, that ranking was down to No. 4. This year’s database isn’t out yet.
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Boise State’s salary pool has been stagnant during Harsin’s tenure. Only once before this year did the Broncos even spend $2.1 million on the nine full-time, on-field assistant coaches.
The total for assistants this year is $2.275 million, which includes the 10th assistant coach position added by the NCAA (see the coach-by-coach salaries at the end of this story). The total for the nine traditional jobs is $2.195 million — a 5.3 percent increase over last year, when the Broncos won their second Mountain West title in four years.
“The salary pool, no, it’s not where it needs to be because it’s been that way since 2014,” Harsin said Monday. “We haven’t made any adjustment — if anything, we went down. ... In today’s world, with what some of these coordinators and what some of these coaches are making, there’s a market that’s different, and if you want to be able to compete there, you’ve got to have the ability to do that financially.
“... It’s not even close to where it needs to be, in my opinion. We’ll keep working through those things.”
The market for assistant coaches has taken off in recent years with the infusion of TV and College Football Playoff money into the Power Five conferences. Fifteen college football assistants made $1 million or more last year, according to USA Today. Alabama is paying both of its coordinators more than $1 million this year, and Ohio State’s salary pool is more than $7 million — with its lowest-paid assistant making more than Boise State’s coordinators.
“I don’t look at it as a negative. If teams are able to do that, then do it,” Harsin said. “I hope we’re able to do more. I hope that we’re able to bring more to the table for our coaches and coaches that come here that we want to be a part of our program. ... The people that you surround yourself with matters.”
Two assistants left Boise State after last season. Defensive line coach Steve Caldwell received a $360,000 salary at Arkansas (a $109,984 increase) and cornerbacks coach Ashley Ambrose received $232,200 at Colorado (a $22,182 increase).
Boise State’s salary pool for football assistants
Here’s how much the Boise State football program has spent on salaries for assistant coaches under coach Bryan Harsin. This total covers the nine full-time, on-field coaches from 2014 to 2017. A 10th assistant was added by the NCAA for the 2018 season.
2018: $2.195 million for nine assistants, $2.275 million including new 10th assistant
2017: $2.085 million
2016: $2.04 million
2015: $2.105 million
2014: $2.05 million
Boise State assistants’ 2018 salaries
Andy Avalos, defensive coordinator: $335,000 (last year: $315,016)
Zak Hill, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks: $300,020 ($285,002)
Kent Riddle, tight ends/special teams: $290,000 ($275,018)
Brad Bedell, offensive line: $250,000 ($225,015)
Chad Kauha’aha’a, defensive line: $225,000 (Steve Caldwell, $250,016)
Gabe Franklin, safeties: $210,000 ($195,000)
Eric Kiesau, wide receivers: $210,000 ($185,016)
Jeff Popovich, cornerbacks: $200,000 (Ashley Ambrose, $210,018)
Lee Marks, running backs: $175,000 ($145,018)
Spencer Danielson, STUDs: $80,000 (new position)