So, this is problematic. Jeff Faraudo:
At Cal, Likens and Yenser were part of an assistants staff whose combined salaries in 2014 ranked last among the Pac-12 Conference’s 10 public universities and second-to-last among all schools in the Power 5 leagues whose figures are public, according to the USA Today’s annual coaching salary survey.
Look. I have no issue with Rob Likens leaving for Kansas. His stock was not going to be higher. His wide receivers helped usher in one of the most successful offenses in college football this season. He was getting promoted to be an offensive coordinator at an FBS school, something that probably seemed inconceivable a few years ago. He was not going to be the offensive coordinator at Cal with this staff. Being able to run your own offense at an FBS program is a dream job. You go for it, even if Kansas is one of the hardest places to win.
Yes, Yenser and Likens are best buddies and are tied to the hip with each other on the recruiting trail. Yes, there is an appeal of Yenser coming closer to home to recruit closer to his Southern base. Yes, he's getting a new title of "run game coordinator", although I doubt it's anything more than a title to get additional salary. Yes, we have no idea if Yenser is really all that; the jury is still out on whether he can produce an elite offensive line at the Power 5 level, but we were probably going to have a good idea this season.
But if you polled 10,000 coaches in college football and asked them to pick taking an equivalent job at Cal or Kansas, 9900 would be getting wild and crazy with Patches on Telegraph in a heartbeat (the other 100 just like to hunt a lot).
And that's the thing. All things are not equivalent. Kansas will certainly pay more than Cal for both coaches because Cal still remains one of the worst programs in the country at paying their assistants. Kansas! The program that has three winning seasons in the past two decades!!!
It's not just that the assistant salary pay is one of the lowest in college football. It's that the salary pay is that low in the most expensive housing market in the country. Rob Likens and Zach Yenser will be able to afford seven bedroom houses in Lawrence, Kansas, which is perfect for raising and growing young families. In the Bay Area, you'd probably get half the size or double the commute time. Yenser is known to have lived close to Memorial Stadium in cramped quarters, while Likens had to make his treks from San Ramon. Not ideal.
Hell, the assistant salary structure probably made it easy for Likens and Yenser to leave without any counter offer from Dykes and company to try and raise their price. This is a problem.
Now, if you want to play devil's advocate, this wasn't a proven staff when we got them, so why invest in them? At the moment, Sonny Dykes isn't at lame duck status, but he's pretty close to it with an average to disappointing season this year. With no results to show yet for these coaches, the assistant salaries seem to be in the right spot in terms of how well our team has performed so far. Cal has put most of their money into their offensive and defensive coordinators, and Sonny already whiffed once.
But it's not just this coaching staff either. Jeff Tedford struggled during the last half of his tenure to find top-level assistants because he didn't have the budget to get them. And the coaches he did end up finding often didn't last that long.
It's a huge recruiting striking point. Cal has no consistency in keeping assistants anymore. Only one assistant coach has managed to stay at Cal for more than four years in the past decade--Ron Gould. It will hurt us deeply in recruiting going forward if we can't manage a salary commensurate with what our coaches can earn to live comfortably in the Bay.
Cal will now have four offensive line and wide receiver coaches in 7 years and three new defensive staffs in 3 years. This is how you start losing your cachet with recruits; who wants to sign up to play for assistants who aren't guaranteed to be around for more than a year or two?
Oregon, Stanford, USC--these are the programs we aspire to be like the Pac-12. The programs pay their assistants and let them go only for not being up to the task (hi Andy Buh!). Oregon has assistants that have been in Eugene for decades. Stanford managed to keep Michigan (MICHIGAN!) from stealing some of their assistants this year. And of course USC gets whoever they want, even if sometimes they decide to take lickitylips over Clancy Pendergast. If you want consistent success, keep the best of your staff around!
If Cal wants elite results, they need to empty their wallets and get the best coaches on the market, or at least the best up-and-coming coaches out there. Of course, easier said than done--who wants to empty their wallets in California these days--but it's clear that at least that some will exists within our athletic department and donor base. Cal did find plenty of money to make Andy Buh go away (now at Arkansas). It's clear that a budget does exist to correct mistakes, so why can't we find the money to give our decent assistants their due?
Case in point: While Cal is at the low end of the Pac-12 assistant salary ladder, our sister school UCLA is at the top. While the Bruins coaching staff has received mixed reaction for week-to-week coaching ("I knew it was you Ulbrich!"), UCLA has finally made use of their talent and piled up a 29-11 record over three years. Investing in assistants has also paid dividends in recruiting as well, as UCLA keeps on bringing in top class after top class. The Bruins are going all-out to bring in the best staff they can get, and they're staying on the precipice of Pac-12 title contention.
While every other Pac-12 school has ramped up their assistant salary pay in much smaller markets, Cal has held steady. That's not good enough.
Whether it's through increased donations, better marketing, the university and athletic department combining their efforts to get better at improving their endowment, etc. etc., Cal must find a way to pay their assistants. It's not a business the Bears can skimp on, or they risk a return to the darkest of dark times.