PROVO — Kalani Sitake understands his hire of an offensive coordinator has to be a home run.
And he’ll have to pay for it.
Wednesday night, Scott Roussel of FootballScoop.com, reported that LSU offensive line coach Jeff Grimes is expected to be named BYU's new offensive coordinator once cleared by the school's process. Grimes had a similar role at BYU a decade ago. He has coached at Virginia Tech, Auburn, Colorado, Arizona State, Boise State and Hardin-Simmons.
Grimes is the 76th-highest paid assistant coach in the NCAA, making $560,000 base salary at LSU. He is considered the best O-line coach in the country. If hired at BYU, it would be his first offensive coordinator job.
Grimes won't come cheap, but beat writers that cover LSU said he may take a pay cut to obtain the title of coordinator and also reported that he was offered a raise to stay at LSU.
From what I remember of Grimes, he was a no-nonsense, businesslike coach who was extremely demanding. Players loved him because he pushes them to their limits. I remember one practice where he got after Jake Kuresa big time. I almost felt sorry for Big K. When I teased him about it, he said, "That wasn't the first or only time."
Grimes is a trench expert along the lines of Roger French, who has aspirations to be a head coach. What he'd bring to BYU is technique, game preparation, recruiting contacts, tacit knowledge at the highest SEC level.
He would likely either name a staff immediately or could take his time since he won't be at BYU until after LSU's Citrus Bowl game. All of BYU's current offensive coaches are on contract and will be paid until July.
The challenge is a big one. If it is Grimes, he won't be certain who his starting quarterback will be. That’s kind of a big deal.
Tanner Mangum (Achilles) and Beau Hoge (toe, concussion protocol) are on the mend. Joe Critchlow was a walk-on freshman with potential and a few games under his belt. Redshirt freshman Kody Wilstead and returning LDS missionary Jaren Hall will certainly want something to say about the competition but haven’t played a down. Texas prepster Stacy Conner says he’ll be on campus Jan. 4 and will do anything asked. Then there’s Koy Detmer Jr., who was once No. 3 on the depth chart.
The status of No. 1 running back Ula Tolutau hasn’t been clearly defined after a suspension, and the fastest back you have, KJ Hall, just had ACL surgery. Kavika Fonua, who started the season, is uncertain to even play again due to a back injury. There is Squally Canada.
Then, there’s this: The Cougars open the 2018 season on the road at Arizona, host Cal the next Saturday, and then take on Boise State, Washington, Wisconsin and Utah on the road.
Yeah, sign right up.
BYU will have to pay to convince the new coordinator there is more than just good karma in store. Especially after relieving Ty Detmer — a guy who is on BYU’s Mount Rushmore — of coordinator duties after facing a perfect storm in a nine-loss season.
I am told BYU will pay enough to hire a person like Grimes. If he is the right guy, they will make it work for him.
This would be the most experienced college coach BYU has ever hired, albeit he has never been a play caller or coordinator. He currently works for one of the most respected and highest-paid offensive coordinators in the country.
How crazy has money become in college sports? It is absolutely nuts. In fact, it is dangerous, almost tipping the scales of insanity. But if you want to play, you pay.
San Diego State coach Rocky Long, speaking on the Mark & Rich Show on XTRA 1360 in Southern California, put it this way about Jimbo Fisher’s $75 million contract: “He doesn’t make one tackle, doesn’t catch one pass, he doesn’t score one TD. We’re not only in this to have a salary, we’re in this to develop young men so (coaching salaries) are embarrassing at times.”
And then, when win totals don’t satisfy fans and boosters, schools fire coaches and buy out contracts. Fox Sports college analyst Joel Klatt put it this way on Twitter this week: “Power 5 programs are paying a combined $69.01 million in buyouts this year alone. You could give every Power 5 football player around $10,000 with that money. Institutions of higher education are paying $69,010,000 to seven individuals for them not to work.”
It is crazy. But crazy is as crazy does. You get TV money and fill stadiums and make people pay six bucks for hot dogs. You buy coaches.
USA Today created a database of assistant coaches salaries a week ago. The numbers are interesting.
In September, BYU faced two of the top-paid assistant coaches in America at LSU, including the highest-paid assistant in college football, Tiger defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, $1.8 million. LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada is No. 4 at $1.5 million.
Of note, Virginia offensive coordinator Robert Anae makes $550,000 with a maximum bonus of $137,500. I’d argue many of BYU’s position coaches don’t make a base salary of Anae’s max bonus.
Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley makes a similar package of $525,000 with a $43,750 max bonus. Utah’s first-year O-coordinator just two years removed from the California high school ranks makes $500,000 with an $83,000 max bonus.
Other members of Bronco Mendenhall’s staff make very good money. O-Line coach Garett Tujague ($350,000, $87,000 bonus), Jason Beck ($300,000, $75,000 bonus), Kelly Poppinga ($350,000 with a $87,000 bonus) and Mark Atuaia ($250,000, $62,500 bonus).
So, as you see the real world of what it takes to fuel a coaching staff, you understand why BYU’s hire of a new offensive coordinator is a meaty, complex investment and the right guy must be revealed.
Is it Grimes?
The current wave opinion and reports suggest it may be.