Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Whether a college athlete should be paid for his or her athletic contributions to a university is still a hot topic up for debate. But while that discussion rages on, some college football coaches are seeing their salaries increase from year to year.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is the most recent to see his salary jump upward. He was granted a raise last week by the Oklahoma board of regents, along with the approval of stadium and facility upgrades.
Stoops has long been regarded as one of the best coaches in the country, having led the Sooners to a national championship back in his second season with Oklahoma (2000) and to double-digit win totals in 12 of his 15 years guiding the program.
With the raise, Stoops becomes the latest to join the exclusive $5 million- plus club because his annual coaching salary is now $5.25 million for 2014. Other coaches in college football who make $5 million or more include Alabama's Nick Saban ($6.9 million), Texas's Charlie Strong ($5 million) and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin ($5 million).
Despite Oklahoma's relative inactivity in recent years when it comes to contending for another national championship, the raise for Stoops was certainly warranted, especially considering he was being courted by some coach-hungry NFL teams during the offseason, and Oklahoma didn't want to lose its main man.
Now entering his 16th season with the Sooners, Stoops owns the second-highest yearly contract for 2014 behind Saban.
Oklahoma running back coach Cale Gundy seemed excited by the news that his boss was moving up in the salary world, and let his emotions flow out on Twitter.
"Looks like my boss should be at the top! #unmatched," Gundy tweeted on June 27.
The tweet garnered some national attention that irked Alabama fans, who believe they have the nation's top coach. Perhaps the "#unmatched" is what got to them.
There's no doubt Saban deserves every penny of his contract, having won four national titles between Alabama and LSU. And there are likely few people out there who would dispute the fact that he should be the highest-paid coach in college football.
The questions that follow are these: Is Stoops the next best? Is he the closest to achieving something Saban-esque? Who else can and should command such a hefty salary?
Stoops has helped his Sooners win eight Big 12 Conference championships in his 15 years and has produced 65 NFL draftees (of which 13 have been first- rounders). He also holds the record for most wins for an Oklahoma head coach, as he passed Barry Switzer last year and now owns a 160-39 overall record. That comes with longevity at the position.
Someone like Charlie Strong, who has never coached a down at Texas but is set to accumulate $5 million this upcoming season, is a beneficiary of a wealthy athletic department, which has its own television network. Yes, what Strong did at Louisville these past few years helps, but taking over for a juggernaut like Mack Brown in the Big 12 can present its own set of challenges.
And we'll find out what Sumlin ($5 million this upcoming year) can do at Texas A&M this season without Johnny Manziel. Prior to coaching the Aggies, Sumlin was the man at the University of Houston, which enjoyed a few strong seasons with Sumlin as the coach.
But Sumlin hasn't had a life at Texas A&M without Manziel. Johnny Football won the Heisman Trophy the season Sumlin made his debut, and was again omnipresent in 2013, though the team went just 9-4.
Other longer-tenured coaches in college football can certainly state their cases for higher-salaried contracts, like Les Miles at LSU and Butch Jones at Tennessee. LSU has been more relevant nationally in recently and both compete in the highly contested Southeastern Conference.
Urban Meyer might have the best case for being the next coach to break the $5 million annual salary mark (he's set to make $4.6 million at Ohio State next year). He fielded some outrageously strong Florida teams (including the 2008 squad he believes is the best of all-time), and took Ohio State to an undefeated season two years ago, though the Buckeyes were banned from competing in a bowl that season.
If you take longevity into consideration for Stoops, perhaps the raise is actually overdo. If you take a look at the five major conferences (SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC and Pac-12), only Iowa's Kirk Ferentz and Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer have been at their programs longer than Stoops has been at Oklahoma.
The Sooners went 11-2 last season under Stoops, and defeated Saban and Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, 45-31, to cap the campaign. Oklahoma is supposed to contend for a national title this season in the first-ever college football playoff era, according to multiple preseason power indexes.
Saban has certainly cemented himself as college football's top coach, with Stoops the likely candidate for second on that list. And he deserves the salary raise, even though he hasn't led the Sooners to a national championship appearance since 2003.