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What $eparates P$U football and ba$ketball? It’$ obviou$, but can change$ be made?

Over the past week, Penn State dropped probably $150,000 — maybe even more — into the football program. By adding two offensive analysts, Dowell Loggains and Danny O’Brien, who will work behind the scenes with an offensive coordinator in Mike Yurcich who, while we can’t know the exact figure, probably makes at least $1.5 million.

These aren’t assistant coaches, mind you, but analysts. Loggains is a veteran NFL offensive coordinator, so you gotta figure he’s going to get in the neighborhood of $100,000. O’Brien doesn’t have anywhere near the experience as Loggains, but it’s reasonable to think he’ll be getting $50,000 or so.

The defensive coordinator, Brent Pry, also is believed to be pulling in $1.5 million or more per year — all things considered — although again, those numbers have never been made public.

Both Yurcich and Pry, if their salary estimates are accurate, make more money as coordinators than Penn State’s last head basketball coach. Patrick Chambers was pulling in about $1 million a year, according to estimates.

Penn State is looking for a new basketball coach, and the school probably will still be paying something close to that $1 million a year figure.

Which is, to put it bluntly, a joke.

There’s a certain candidate pool you can get if you pay $1 million a year for a basketball coach. There will be very good coaches among that group, make no mistake, but because of the low salary, they won’t be anything close to household names to casual sports fans, and probably not even to big college basketball fans in this area.

LISTEN: Ben Jones from StateCollege.com discusses these financial issues on “Sports Central with Cory Giger” on WRTA in Altoona

 

When I put out this list of potential candidates a few days ago, the primary response I heard from fans went like this: “I’ve never heard of most of these guys” or the usual “Why can’t Penn State pay for a big-name coach?”

PSU’s candidate pool would widen substantially if it could bump its salary figure up to $1.5 million. And it would include some outstanding candidates with a lot of name recognition if the number was in the $2 million neighborhood.

Hey, we can dream, can’t we?

So again, let’s go back to the estimated $150,000 the school just committed to paying two football analysts. I’m certain those guys will pay big dividends. And to keep up with the Joneses in the high-stakes world of major college football, PSU is just gonna have to pay that kind of money — and really lots and lots more.

As Board of Trustee member Brandon Short discussed recently when it came to spending $48 million on football facilities upgrades: “There’s no other place where we can get a higher return on our investment than investing in our football program.”

He’s absolutely right. On a dollar for dollar basis, spending money on the football program has a better chance of helping the overall athletic program make a higher return than spending that money on anything else.

Still, it has to rub a whole lot of people the wrong way at Penn State to see that $48 million allocated for football facilities. And another $150,000 spent on two football analysts a week later. You’ll never, ever hear coaches of other sports be overly critical of the football spending, but damn, you know they see two analysts getting $150,000, and it will anger some of them to know that they may not even make that much to be the head coach of their sport.

On basketball specifically:

If Penn State would have added that $150,000 to the budget for its next basketball coach, it could make a pretty big difference. Or at the very least, it would be a really nice start to getting closer to a salary figure that would be respectable, instead of laughable, to pay a basketball coach in the nation’s toughest conference.

Full disclosure, I love college basketball. I would love to see Penn State hire the best basketball coach it possibly can and take big steps toward competing for an NCAA Tournament berth at least every few years.

Spending $2 million a year on a coach might help make that happen.

But here’s where the rubber meets the road.

There’s a good chance that spending that extra money on a basketball coach probably will not make the program consistently stronger or — and this is more important — more profitable.

Penn State makes about $4 million a year in profit off of men’s basketball, in large part because of TV revenue. If the Nittany Lions are really good, that number likely will still be close to $4 million. If they’re really bad, it will be close to $4 million.

Because of where State College is located and the number of weeknight games the Lions play at home, it’s just not feasible to think attendance would grow dramatically enough to make tons more money, even if the team was better year in and year out.

And can the team be better year in and year out, even with an excellent coach making a lot of money?

Debatable.

Penn State would still be dealing with the same problems it’s always dealt with, such as no real recruiting base close to campus, no great basketball tradition and competing in a brutally tough league where even decent teams can have a tough time winning many games.

If Penn State spends an extra $1 million a year on a basketball coach, the most likely result would simply be that it would cut into the $4 million profit the program makes.

Now, if PSU could somehow go out and build a brand new basketball-centric arena and also pay a coach a boatload of money, then sure, there could be hope that the program could finally turn a corner and be a consistent NCAA Tournament threat.

But now we’re really dreaming. Unless Terry Pegula wants to fork over another $100 million, there’s no way the school will get a new basketball arena. The cavernous Bryce Jordan Center will just have to do.

I can go on and on here, but the bottom line is that Penn State basketball is what it is, and it’s unlikely to ever be anything more.

It will be a program that’s pretty good a couple of times a decade, makes a tournament every now and then and makes a deep run in the NIT on occasion.

If Penn State decides it has a bunch of extra money to spend on athletics, then that money needs to go to football. It just does, and it pains me to say that as a college basketball junkie.

Beaver Stadium needs A LOT of work. That’s gonna cost a ton. James Franklin still probably wants more analysts and more support staff in his football program, to catch up to the likes of a Michigan or Clemson or Alabama. It will cost money to pay those folks.

And any money spent on those folks would most likely bring back a better return on investment than whatever is spent on basketball.

All of this was true before, and it’s especially true now for a school that wants to keep 31 sports programs during a time when a pandemic just cost the school tens of millions of dollars.

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