Will Rick Stockstill Be A Trendsetter Among College Football Coaches?

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When Ohio State gave head coach Urban Meyer a pay raise giving him around $6.5 million a season, I posited a question: might college football coaches forego pay increases, or perhaps negotiate stipulations as they currently do for assistants, that divvy wages to student-athletes?

Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Stockstill answered that question with an emphatic yes on Friday, diverting his $100,000 raise to help the university athletic department cover cost-of-attendance.

Rick Stockstill said via the Associated Press:

“I want to do what’s best for our players, what’s best for our recruits, what’s best for this program. Everybody’s going to be doing cost of attendance, everybody’s building new facilities. I’m doing everything I can to help not only this university, but our current players and our future players.”

Stockstill won’t see a raise on the nearly $720,000 he sees annually directly from the school until January 2019, though he did negotiate an extension of his contract to 2023. Assuming he remains at MTSU until the end of his new deal, Rick Stockstill will have been the Blue Raiders head coach for nearly two decades.

He arrived in Mufreesboro in 2006, leading the Blue Raiders to their first bowl appearance since 1961. MTSU has gone to three bowl games since and finished bowl-eligible twice more, though missed on invitations. Once was in 2012 when it finished 8-4, but a riff with the Sun Belt Conference, which MTSU was exiting, may have contributed to its snub.

Indeed, Rick Stockstill has been a great coach for MTSU, and within the game’s landscape, earned his raise. But also within the landscape of current college football, smaller programs like MTSU have to find ways to compete with the wealthy, Power Five programs that pay coaches in excess of $4 million and up to $7 million annually and build veritable palaces with record television revenue.

Not so coincidentally, MTSU is a member of Conference USA, which faces an uncertain television future. Friend of the Site Kevin McGuire, of NBCSports, presented this insightful look at C-USA’s TV situation earlier this week.

Programs like MTSU aren’t going to be awash in riches like their power counterparts, but still have to keep in step with demands like cost-of-attendance that have arisen specifically due to the big money those major universities command.

It’s a pragmatic move that will help MTSU continue to compete — which it’s done admirably, winning such notable games as a 2012 contest at Georgia Tech. But Rick Stockstill’s redistribution of his paycheck just might be the key to solving the question of player compensation.

Surely there would be challenges, with the NCAA — or each individual conference — having to set a cap. For example, Rick Stockstill makes 1/10th what Nick Saban receives from Alabama; Saban can take a smaller percentage cut from his paycheck and still divvy out considerably more than a program like MTSU. And, since Saban advocates a level playing field, surely he wouldn’t want that.

In essence, such a structure would best function akin to the salary caps in professional caps, but with the money being divvied evenly among the athletes and the pool negotiated directly from the coaching salaries.