The University of Georgia is using an old-fashioned method to combat the exploding costs of coaching salaries: keeping coaches around.
Georgia's athletic department has endured minimal financial damage in recent years as the result of staff turnover when compared to most Southeastern Conference institutions. The chief exceptions for the Bulldogs have taken place within the past 10 months, when Mark Fox was hired to replace Dennis Felton as men's basketball coach and Todd Grantham was hired to replace football defensive coordinator Willie Martinez.
"Any time you have stability, your salaries don't fluctuate a lot," said Frank Crumley, Georgia's executive associate athletic director overseeing finance. "When you have people come and go, it always seems like the next person is making more than the one before. That's just the nature of the game. Mark Fox is making more than Dennis Felton was. When things change, the next person or the next crew generally makes more than the one that was there."
While Tennessee will have Derek Dooley as its third head football coach in as many seasons -- and Alabama had three during 2002-03 -- Georgia is alone in the SEC with one beginning his 10th year at his school. Mark Richt has directed 90 wins in nine seasons, leading Georgia to SEC titles in 2002 and '05, and his annual salary of about $2.9 million places him around 10th nationally.
In that same neighborhood are Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino and Michigan's Rich Rodriguez, who leveraged success elsewhere to land hefty deals. However, Petrino is just 13-12 in two seasons with the Razorbacks, while Rodriguez is 8-16 with the Wolverines.
Grantham became the highest-paid assistant in Georgia history earlier this month when he agreed to a three-year contract at $750,000 annually. That figure is nearly $100,000 more than Martinez ($327,415) and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo ($326,600) combined to make last season.
"I've heard Florida is up pretty high on its new coordinator (George Edwards) and that Kirby Smart got a raise at Alabama, so it sort of is what the market is right now," Crumley said. "I'm not saying whether it's right or wrong. It's just what the market is commanding."
Said Grantham: "I think this goes back to the passion of the fans, the excitement of winning and trying to beat the expectations. I think all of that stuff has really led to this."
The firings last month of Martinez, linebackers coach John Jancek and defensive ends coach Jon Fabris were the first performance-based ousters Richt has made in his tenure.
Georgia's total salary for its football assistants this past season was $2.03 million, which was the 15th-highest in a survey compiled by the USA Today. Tennessee had the highest at $3.33 million, and among the others ranking ahead of the Bulldogs were Arkansas, Missouri, West Virginia and Washington.
Felton was making $800,000 when he was fired last January. Fox was hired in April to a six-year pact at $1.3 million annually, which puts him fifth in the SEC behind Kentucky's John Calipari ($3.9 million), Florida's Billy Donovan ($3.5), Tennessee's Bruce Pearl ($2.4) and Alabama's Anthony Grant ($1.8).
Most of Georgia's head coaches have been in place for years.
Andy Landers has been the women's basketball coach since 1979, which predates the NCAA tournament, while Jack Bauerle has overseen swimming and Manny Diaz has directed tennis for nearly that long. Suzanne Yoculan stepped down last year after 26 seasons as gymnastics coach, and David Perno soon will start his ninth season as baseball coach.
Georgia doling out higher salaries to Grantham and Fox is mere change in an overall budget of $84,800,280, and it's paltry compared to the $5.5 to $6 million more that each SEC school expects to receive annually from the league's new television deals with CBS and ESPN.
No wonder Barbara Dooley keeps urging husband Vince to join his son's staff in Knoxville.
"She's never let me live down the fact that after 25 years, I finally got my salary from $12,000 when I started to about $500,000," the former Georgia football coach and athletic director said. "I decided it was time for me to go in another direction, and then all of a sudden there was the explosion in salaries. Every time she reads it, she always reminds me, 'Why in the world would you work 25 years, start to make some money and then decide to leave?'"