Kragthorpe: Utah State coach is college football's best bargain
Two of Frank Maile's defensive linemen made the All-Mountain West second team. Utah State ranks 10th nationally in rushing defense. The Aggies have qualified for a bowl game in each of his three seasons as a full-time coach, the first such streak in school history.
Add it up, and Maile is the biggest bargain in his profession.
He's among the lowest-paid assistant coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision, according to USA Today's database. Maile's salary of $45,690 (plus $2,000 in outside outcome) reflects how USU's funding remains below the Mountain West average although fairly comparable to schools other than Boise State and how coach Matt Wells allocates the available money to his nine assistants.
"There is a formula," Wells said.
USU considers the coaches' levels of responsibility and experience, the factors that would make them attractive to other schools. By Wells' method, with a pool of slightly more than $1 million, the three top-paid assistants account for about 54 percent of the total, the middle three get 30 percent and the lower three earn 16 percent. The Utah staff's percentages, by comparison, are 46/30/24, with a total of $2.16 million.
Salaries for college football's head coaches have skyrocketed in recent years, and the market value for assistants also has increased. USU's scale is considerably higher than when former coach Gary Andersen took over the program five years ago, as an emphasis of athletic director Scott Barnes. The cost of living in Cache Valley also is much less than in the MW's California markets, for example. The Aggies' staff funding is "better than it's ever been," Wells said. "I think it's going to get better, because you want to stay relevant in the Mountain West and [with] who your peers are."
Only six years removed from his USU playing days, Maile likes the way his career is progressing. Married with four children, he was worried about being left out in the Aggies' transition last December, when Andersen moved to Wisconsin.
Andersen promoted Maile from a graduate assistant to a full-time coach in 2011, replacing Chad Kauha'aha'a, who moved to Utah and is now at Wisconsin, where he makes $205,000. Maile would have been in that salary range if Andersen had taken him, but Maile is just happy that Wells, formerly USU's offensive coordinator, retained him and other staff members who were left behind.
"It was interesting how things unfolded," Maile said. "Next thing you know, you're looking for a job. I was fortunate enough that coach Wells trusted me and thought I could still do the job. So I owe him a lot for giving me an opportunity again."
Maile's linemen certainly value him. "I could talk for an hour about how good coach Frank is," said defensive end B.J. Larsen. "He's a big influence in my life. â¦ His coaching style's perfect for me."
Other observations of the salary list:
• Mountain West member Boise State is paying assistant coaches at a power-conference level. The Broncos' salary pool of $2.436 million is bigger than Utah's and almost matches Wisconsin's, for example.
• Private schools, including BYU, are not required to disclose salaries. The Arizona offensive line coach who replaced BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae makes $250,000 and the Texas-El Paso receivers coach who succeeded BYU's Guy Holliday earns $190,000. So it's fair to assume that Anae's and Holliday's salaries are in that ballpark, at least.
• Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake's $500,000 salary is tied for fifth among assistant coaches of the 10 reporting schools in the Pac-12, with USC and Stanford exempt. Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox earns $800,004 by far the biggest published salary in the Pac-12 and twice as much as the Huskies' offensive coordinator, reflecting former coach Steve Sarkisian's level of involvement in the offense.
Sitake's salary matches the combined income of co-offensive coordinators Dennis Erickson and Brian Johnson. Ute coach Kyle Whittingham ($2.427 million) earns more than his nine assistants combined, which is not uncommon in the power conferences.
Coach Position Salary
Kyle Whittngham Head coach $2,427,000
Kalani Sitake Def. coord. $500,000
Dennis Erickson Co-off. coord. $275,000
Brian Johnson Co-off. coord. $225,000
Jay Hill* Special teams/TE $225,000
Morgan Scalley Safeties $210,000
Aaron Roderick Receivers $200,000
Dan Finn Offensive line $200,000
Ilaisa Tuiaki Defensive line $175,000
Sharrieff Shah Cornerbacks $150,000
Assistants' total $2,160,000
* Hill is now Weber State's head coach
Coach Position Salary
Matt Wells Head coach $500,000
Todd Orlando Def. coord. $202,240
Kevin McGiven Off. Coord. $182,040
Mark Weber Offensive line $161,840
Luke Wells Co-off. coord. $126,490
Dave Ungerer Special teams/RB $96,190
Kevin Clune Linebackers $75,990
Jovon Bouknight Receivers $55,790
Kendrick Shaver Cornerbacks $50,740
Frank Maile Defensive line $45,690
Assistants' total $1,070,010
Other selected coaches with Utah ties
Coach Former Current Salary
Dave Aranda USU DC Wisconsin DC $480,000
Andy Ludwig Utah OC Wisconsin OC $480,000
Kent Baer USU DC Colorado DC $452,500
Eric Kiesau USU WR Washington OC $400,004
Dave Schramm Utah RB Fresno State OC $235,180
Patrick Higgins BYU WR UTEP OC $190,000