BY Art Thiel 03:18PM 01/18/2012

Thiel: Huskies football leads in new arms race

Washington’s hire of Eric Kiesau of Cal completes Sarkisian’s staff, and raises the stakes all around the wealthy Pac-12 conference.

Coach Poach 2012 all done, Washington's Steve Sarkisian has reason to smile. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Gather ’round, kiddies, for a football story that begins in long-ago 1999.

The Washington athletic department paid a $1 million annual salary to a head coach, Rick Neuheisel, who had not won as much as a conference championship, to leave the University of Colorado and replace the fired Jim Lambright.

Outrageous, said many Pac-10 athletic administrators. Washington ratcheted up the arms race to ridiculous proportions, they said.

Fast forward to 2008, when Washington paid a $1.6 million base to a new head coach, Steve Sarkisian, who had never been a head coach at any level, to replace the fired Tyrone Willingham.

Another round of grumbles, although these were more muted, because, well, it wasn’t THAT outrageous anymore.

Fast forward to Wednesday, when Washington completed its Coach Poach for 2012 with  the hire of a new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach purloined from Cal, Eric Kiesau. He will be be paid, according to various unofficial reports, at least $700,000 annually, and perhaps even more than the $750,000 annual base that Tennessee was paying its defensive coordinator, Justin Wilcox, before he took a better offer from UW.

Grumbles were few, because, well, everyone is on the runaway freight train and no one sees a way to jump off without skinning elbows, knees and chins something awful.

So the coordinators in the Shangri-La world of the Pac-12 have nearly caught up to Neuheisel’s head-coaching salary that engendered so much disdain. Granted, $1 million today isn’t what it was in ’99, particularly if you have to pay to park in downtown Seattle. But inflation aside, the sum remains handsome coin to push around X’s and O’s that has no impact on national security or the Kardashians.

Is the pay scale too much? A relative question, of course. If you are, say,  a senior executive at Microsoft or Amazon, it is tip money.

If you are, say, Cal athletics, you are stunned, angry and feeling impotent, particularly because you lost not only Kiesau, 39, but Tosh Lupoi, 30, a defensive-line assistant so well well-regarded as a recruiter that he may pull a few Cal recruits to Washington with him, as well as bending light waves and door keys with his mind.

“Tosh and Eric have decided to take other jobs, and we wish them the best,” Cal head coach Jeff Tedford said in a statement that did not describe the tension in Tedford’s jaw. “We exhausted all our resources to try to retain Tosh and Eric within the confines and continuity of our coaching staff.”

Slightly more revealing was a statement from Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour: “We did all we were able to do to have them remain at Cal and appreciate our community’s willingness toward that effort.”

Normally, ADs don’t say much about this sort of bad news, but it’s clear Barbour was speaking AD code for “#@&* Washington,” or characters to that effect, addressing both the poaching as well as Cal’s reluctance to play the stupid-money game. As a position coach, Lupoi is getting a raise from $164,000 at Cal to more than $500,000.

Washington State’s new football coach, Mike Leach, likes to play pirate. Hah! His cross-state rivals ARE pirates.

So are most schools, despite Cal’s misgivings. USA Today published its annual salary survey of college football coaches this week, which showed that average salaries set to be paid to head coaches for 2012 among Bowl Subdivision schools is up seven percent from 2011, and 55 percent in six seasons. The new coaches hired for 18 vacant positions went up 35 percent from the new coach average in 2011.  That that doesn’t include the logs UW has just thrown on the fire in the last couple of weeks.

“This just shows … the difficulty of bringing (football) into the right proportion, the right balance with the academic mission,”  Penn State emeritus professor John Nichols, who chairs the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, a faculty group advocating for athletics reform, told the website.

Good luck with that reform. Ain’t gonna happen, not as long as the American sports fans’ thirst for big-time college sports remains unslaked. Judging by the $3 billion, 12-year TV deal the Pac-12 signed with ESPN and Fox Sports, we have all taken the advice from the World’s Most Interesting Man to stay thirsty.

Washington finds itself under the twin pressures of having been surpassed in the West by Oregon and Boise State, as well as the need to renovate Husky Stadium, then fill it with, and amuse, wealthies who are disposed to support the university’s sports program.

It is not the job of the football coaches or the athletic directors to figure out reforms. It is their jobs to win big so the sports programs at every public university do not fall on the schools’ general funds for support. So nothing as trifling as rationality, sobriety, perspective and university mission statement will get in the way of whatever it takes to win big. Reforms will come only from university presidents, but they are in the locomotive with a clear view that there there is no stopping this train, least of all by them.

To get on board, it comes as no surprise that Washington’s key program hires have come from recently successful programs that had surpassed UW in prestige and credibility.

The Huskies have an athletic director from Southeastern Conference powerhouse LSU, a head coach from USC, an offensive coordinator from Cal and a defensive coordinator from Boise State via Tennessee. Then there’s Lupoi, whose reputation is such that some believe he could have drawn recruits to Custer’s side at the Little Bighorn River.

The TV money that is fueling the train is destined to be distributed evenly to all conference members, which explains how WSU was able to pay Leach three times more than was ever paid to a Cougars coach.

What has happened this week is that the Huskies, desperate to make the leap back to national prominence, had the most vacancies and greatest urgency. Should they be successful, they will be next to be plundered.

That is neither to be cheered or lamented. It is simply part of the pirate’s life.

NOTES — Sarkisian has shifted around some responsibilities on his staff. Holdover Johnny Nansen will serve as assistant head coach, recruiting coordinator and special teams coordinator. Jimmie Dougherty, the UW wide receivers coach, is now also the pass game coordinator, and running backs coach Joel Thomas has added the title of associate head coach,  offense . . .Kiesau spent last season as passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach. He returned to Cal, where previously worked from 2002-05, after having spent the 2006 through 2010 seasons at Colorado. Kiesau coached Bears wideout Keenan Allen, the No. 2 receiver in the Pac-12 in terms of receptions per game last season. Allen and teammate Marvin Jones finished in the top 10 in the conference in receiving yards . . . Kiesau began his coaching career at Glendale (Calif.) Community College in 1998. His first Division I job came in 2000 at Utah State, where he was initially running backs coach before moving to receivers. He coached All-America running back Emmitt White, who led the nation in all-purpose yards in 2000, while at USU. In 2001, he coached receiver Kevin Curtis, the NCAA’s leading receiver with 100 catches, to All-America honors . . .  “It’s great to have our staff complete,” Sarkisian said. “We are going to turn our focus to the final two weeks of recruiting and then start attacking the 2012 season.”

UW FOOTBALL COACHING STAFF
Steve Sarkisian, head coach
Dan Cozzetto, offensive line and run game coordinator
Jimmie Dougherty, wide receivers and pass game coordinator
Keith Heyward, defensive backs
Eric Kiesau, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach
Tosh Lupoi, defensive line, defensive run game coordinator
Johnny Nansen, assistant head coach, rcecruiting coordinator and special teams coordinator
Peter Sirmon, linebackers
Joel Thomas, running backs, associate head coach, offense
Justin Wilcox, defensive coordinator
Ivan Lewis, strength and conditioning


YourThoughts

  • 1amoreno

    Sark’s new Cal additions to his coaching staff  are part of the new coaching scene. Coaches, like professional players, will always go for the money over loyalty to a program, team or school. My opinion is that the new coaches that UW hired are now trying to convince the players they recruited for Cal that UW is now better. Totally dishonest. What makes their recruiting pitch to the young prospective players dishonest is they were selling Cal to them and now it is UW is better. The Boise State coach that joined the new WSU staff recently said he would not recruit his BSU players to WSU. That is honesty. This is the new coaches recruiting approach that the UW is taking. Helps make up for Sark’s less than spectacular recruiting this year.

    • Tom

      Oh please. If you don’t think that WSU’s coach is going try to recruit guys to WSU who commited to him at Boise St., I’ve got a bridge to sell you. And if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be doing his job. You may not like it, but that’s the world of college football recruiting. If you want it changed, that needs to happen at the NCAA level. These coaches are just doing their jobs.

      • 1amoreno

        this from Voices@8ce92fa4f654e062985f905d40791a7a:disqus idahostatesman.com, quote from Jeff Choate, new WSU assistant and former Boise State U. special teams coach

          ” he will not recruit Boise State commits to Washington State.
        He recruited the Houston area, where four players are committed to the
        Broncos, as well as nickel Chris Santini and punter/kicker Sean Wale. He
        also was in charge of in-state recruiting. He has been making contact
        with the recruits. “What I tell them is, ‘The reason you chose Boise
        State wasn’t because of Jeff Choate. For the most part, your position
        coach is still there, the coordinator is still there, and most
        importantly the head coach is there. Boise State is a great place for
        you. I believed that when you committed to us and I believe that now.’ ”

        Read
        more here:
        http://voices.idahostatesman.com/2012/01/16/ccripe/former_boise_state_special_teams_coach_jeff_choate_took_washingt#storylink=cpy

      • 1amoreno

         You are right. It is the state of coaching at the college level today and can only be changed by the honesty of coaches themselves. I understand that the new UW coaches are doing their job for their new program. My comments are meant to point out the lack of integrity. See my other reply for quote and source for a honest approach from another newly hired coach. Sark is just trying to save a mediocre recruiting season.

  • 1amoreno

    Sark’s new Cal additions to his coaching staff  are part of the new coaching scene. Coaches, like professional players, will always go for the money over loyalty to a program, team or school. My opinion is that the new coaches that UW hired are now trying to convince the players they recruited for Cal that UW is now better. Totally dishonest. What makes their recruiting pitch to the young prospective players dishonest is they were selling Cal to them and now it is UW is better. The Boise State coach that joined the new WSU staff recently said he would not recruit his BSU players to WSU. That is honesty. This is the new coaches recruiting approach that the UW is taking. Helps make up for Sark’s less than spectacular recruiting this year.

    • Tom

      Oh please. If you don’t think that WSU’s coach is going try to recruit guys to WSU who commited to him at Boise St., I’ve got a bridge to sell you. And if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be doing his job. You may not like it, but that’s the world of college football recruiting. If you want it changed, that needs to happen at the NCAA level. These coaches are just doing their jobs.

      • 1amoreno

        this from Voices@8ce92fa4f654e062985f905d40791a7a:disqus idahostatesman.com, quote from Jeff Choate, new WSU assistant and former Boise State U. special teams coach

          ” he will not recruit Boise State commits to Washington State.
        He recruited the Houston area, where four players are committed to the
        Broncos, as well as nickel Chris Santini and punter/kicker Sean Wale. He
        also was in charge of in-state recruiting. He has been making contact
        with the recruits. “What I tell them is, ‘The reason you chose Boise
        State wasn’t because of Jeff Choate. For the most part, your position
        coach is still there, the coordinator is still there, and most
        importantly the head coach is there. Boise State is a great place for
        you. I believed that when you committed to us and I believe that now.’ ”

        Read
        more here:
        http://voices.idahostatesman.com/2012/01/16/ccripe/former_boise_state_special_teams_coach_jeff_choate_took_washingt#storylink=cpy

      • 1amoreno

         You are right. It is the state of coaching at the college level today and can only be changed by the honesty of coaches themselves. I understand that the new UW coaches are doing their job for their new program. My comments are meant to point out the lack of integrity. See my other reply for quote and source for a honest approach from another newly hired coach. Sark is just trying to save a mediocre recruiting season.

  • Guest

    Leach didn’t poach coaches unknown to him. Most of his hires are formers players, coaches or staff members from his past. That is loyalty, wait for some more money to float their way and these new coaches will be on the next Pac-12 money train. And about being a pirate, Leach just stole his 4th commit from SMU without stealing their recruiters or coaches, flags up. 

  • Guest

    Leach didn’t poach coaches unknown to him. Most of his hires are formers players, coaches or staff members from his past. That is loyalty, wait for some more money to float their way and these new coaches will be on the next Pac-12 money train. And about being a pirate, Leach just stole his 4th commit from SMU without stealing their recruiters or coaches, flags up. 

  • http://www.americansoccernetwork.com/browse_blogs.php soccer coaching jobs

    Although he’s a relatively young man, he left coaching for health related reasons and that has to leave a question mark over.

  • http://www.americansoccernetwork.com/browse_blogs.php soccer coaching jobs

    Although he’s a relatively young man, he left coaching for health related reasons and that has to leave a question mark over.

  • RadioGuy

    Flopping is something that’s been plaguing the game for years, and may do as much as anything to damage the sport’s quest for credibility with American sports fans who AREN’T into soccer.  Yes, you get flopping in basketball, too, but it’s a small annoyance in a game that routinely features a combined 200 points per game.  When a flop leads to the only score in a soccer game, what is a casual fan supposed to take away from that, especially when soccer proponents are trying to counter the perception that the sport is “boring” to many of these people by touting its artistry and intricacy?  How do you sell a flop as being “artistic?”

    Not to single out the Sounders or MLS for this because flopping happens at much higher levels of soccer elsewhere than what we get in North America, but stuff like this isn’t going to help win new converts to what IS a great sport.

    • Artthiel

      Exactly, radio, why cheapen the the game with cheap tricks designed to manipulate? Everyone last night ended up looking foolish — Burch for being baited, Lenhart for being the perp, and the official for being had.

  • Brent

    It is disturbing when a game is decided by who is officiating.  You had the Lenhart flop leading to the game’s only goal.  You had another hard foul in the box in the second half that wasn’t called, and would have likely been the equalizer.  You had a red card that was retracted a few seconds later.  The officials should never be the difference in a match.  And yet, that’s what happened last night.

    That said, the teams were pretty even on the pitch.  The Sounders had their chances, and blew them.  San Jose blew quite a few chances.  San Jose played harder and smarter, IMHO.  I feel sorry for the ref who has to spend this week thinking about how it all came down to a call he shouldn’t have made, a call he didn’t make, and a red card he got suckered into retracting.  Hopefully, we pay the refs enough to become the best refs MLS can afford.  They work their behinds off, too, and make just as many mistakes as the players.

    • Artthiel

      Brent, while other sports have officiating miscalls that determine outcomes, a too-high percentage of soccer tactics are devoted to the deliberate manipulation of officiating. It’s one thing to try to get away with punching a player in a football pile-up, it’s another to deliberately commit a fraud seen by thousands in house and millions on TV.  Regarding the fines, they may be disproportionate, but obviously it had no effect on Lenhart. MLS has to go Goodell on this if it wants to retain credibility with its growing audience in the U.S.

      • Brent

        It isn’t just the wrongful results (though the Sounders obviously didn’t deserve to win last night).  It’s the growing injury list, as in another Sounder has gone onto the injury list every match so far this season.  A dozen more matches, and there may be nobody left on the roster.  That’s what really has to stop.

        It’s partially bad karma.  There are more than a couple Sounders who I’ve seen get kicked in the shin, fall down, and grab their face.  As a Sounders fan, I am repeatedly embarassed.  Yes, the other sides do it too, and get away with it.

        Lenhart once played under Coach Schmid at the Crew.  He played the same game then.

        Coach Schmid lamented that referees aren’t doing enough to protect star players, like Mauro, but when Mauro is known for some of the best acting in the MLS, he’s going to find less protection from the refs.

        They review films.  They learn the tactics.  They sometimes even notify the commissioner that some blatant and flagrant violations merit ex post facto punishments, such as happened to Flaco last week.

        Change starts at home.  Word to Coach Schmid:  I didn’t buy a season ticket to see hockey.  I bought a season ticket to see the beautiful game.  If someone engages in embellishment or violence, pull him out of the Starting Eleven.

        Show violence and embellishment the red card!

        And a parting plea to the ECS:  That song about the firing squad may be popular around the world, but it is really in poor taste after what happened in Port Saaid.  Can we give the songs promoting violence a rest, please?

  • Brent

    Lenhart, though, is probably biting his nails more than the referee.  A red card is just time off the pitch.  Embellishment, as we heard last week, can come with a big, big fine, which is all the more of a punishment when the players are suffering under the yoke of a salary cap.

    If you ask me, the fines should be much smaller until MLS agrees to lift the salary cap.  The fines need to be in line with their pathetically small salaries.

    And as long as the MLS is the only professional football league in the world with a player salary cap, it will never be taken serious by soccer fans, regardless of how good or bad the officiating is.

  • Artthiel

     He is said to be a chronic manipulator, kelly, and his coach complains that the refs are too hard on him. I get the gamesnmanship, but the fans’ own eyes don’t lie, especially backed by replay. It’s a blight.