Since Lavell Edwards retired, BYU’s football program has entered the arms race that is major college football.
Consider the latest events in the hiring of a new head football coach:
In a paper chase that began Friday, sources say Utah’s first offer to Whittingham Sunday started at $500,000, a figure that clearly outdistanced a BYU offer first put on the table Friday. Utah then pushed that to $750,000 a year for five years by Tuesday afternoon, a figure unheard of in the Rockies for a first-year unproven head coach….
There are reports that in recent weeks some BYU boosters got their own university out of whack when they gathered money for a “fantasy hire” to get back to what they believed would be BYU’s good old days. This group reportedly got commitments to pay USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow to come to BYU for more than $1 million a year.
While BYU administrators did not sign on for that fantasy hire and pursued Whittingham as a prime candidate, the Ute defensive coordinator may have caught wind of that money and wondered about BYU’s offer that amounted to approximately $400,000. Apparently those boosters weren’t interested in Chow money for Whittingham. Monday and Tuesday, BYU officials crunched the numbers, working to find solutions that may appeal to Whittingham.
In the meantime, an independent BYU booster group, different from the Chow supporters, created a fund-raising campaign on Tuesday for a personal performance signing bonus for Whittingham if he took the BYU job. Rob Seolas, a spokesman for Friends and Supporters of Kyle Whittingham, started the fund with $40,000 and put the call out for donations. Following NCAA guidelines, Seolas’ group had raised $250,000 by Tuesday afternoon.
According to BYU sources, administrators worked hard the past five days in placating Whittingham’s desire for a quick decision. This included having BYU President Cecil Samuelson travel to Salt Lake City for a Saturday interview, making the location easy for the candidate.
BYU also hurried up the timetable for a mandatory meeting with an LDS apostle, asking and gaining access Monday afternoon to Elder Henry B. Eyring, who serves as church commissioner of education at church headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City.
The early odds were on BYU, but that was before Utah raised its bid to $750,000.
Why does this series of events trouble me? First, some non-answers. It is not the bidding war per se. Indeed, I hope to induce an enormous bidding war for my services someday, though I am not sure what services I could offer that would prompt such a war. Also, it is not the special efforts of two General Authorities, including one Apostle. Those interviews were required, and scheduling them to meet Whittingham’s desires is just good business.
No, the thing that bothers me about this is that BYU is not taking this seriously. Remember that any head football coach at BYU must hold a temple recommend. That means the coach is a full tithe-payor. The net cost of the BYU offer to Whittingham, therefore, is only $360,000 per year. (The Church pays Whittingham $400,000 and receives 10% back as tithing.) Utah, on the other hand, bears the full cost of its offer: $750,000. More than double the cost of the BYU offer! Moreover, even if BYU loses, the Church wins because it will receive a check for $75,000 if Whittingham goes to Utah.
That just doesn’t seem fair.