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Rich Get Richer; Cristobal Fumbles Again; Trojans & Vikes Struggling; Niners on Fire; Quest Is Best

USA Today published its annual list of college football coaching salaries last week and, as usual, Alabama's Nick Saban led the way at $11.4 million, followed by Clemson's Dabo Swinney ($10.88), Georgia's Kirby Smart ($10.71) Ohio State's Ryan Day ($10.27), former Michigan State coach Mel Tucker ($10.02), LSU's Brian Kelly ($9.9) and Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher ($9.15).

The survey included only public schools, otherwise USC's Lincoln Riley (reported to be over $10M) would've made the top five.

A few highlights: - Michigan State really blew it by giving Tucker a 10-year, $10M per year, deal. His team went 5-7 last year and is off to a 2-3 start this season, and Tucker has been fired for harassing rape survivor Brenda Tracy. His contract is one of the worst deals in college football history, rivaled only by Notre Dame's 10-year agreement with Charlie Weis. - Utah has the best deal. Kyle Whittingham, now in his 19th year, is only ranked 23rd on the list with a salary of $6.36M. Coach Whit has won two straight Pac-12 championships and is a class act. - Washington State also is getting a lot for its money. Jake Dickert at $2.7 will be a hot commodity after this season. - No one is on food stamps. Power Five Conference schools pay their coaches an average of $6.2 million, a 14.2% increase from last year.

- Buyouts are ludicrous. Georgia would owe Smart $92.63 million if it fired him without cause before Dec. 1. Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher, one of the top 10 highest paid coaches at over $9M, has only a 43-23 record and his seat is getting warm. He has the second highest buyout at $77.56 million, followed by another $9M underperformer, Brian Kelly's $70.02 at LSU.

- The money being paid by universities to fired coaches this year would feed many Third World countries. Watching a few minutes of the Alabama-Texas A&M game, it occurred to me that the two men walking the sidelines were making over $20 million between them. Sorry, but that's obscene.

Take a Knee! Miami coach Mario Cristobal, who was known throughout the Pac-12 as a great recruiter and not-so-great coach during his days at Oregon, proved it again Saturday. His Hurricanes led 20-17 with 40 seconds remaining and had the ball in Georgia Tech territory. Since Georgia Tech was out of time outs, Miami could've won the game by simply taking a knee. Instead, Cristobal ran the ball and Donald Chaney fumbled. Georgia Tech recovered with 26 seconds left. The Yellow Jackets went 74 yards in four plays, winning the game on a last-second touchdown pass. Cristobal did the same thing against Stanford in 2018 with his Ducks leading 31-28 and 51 seconds remaining. Instead of having QB Justin Herbert take a knee, he had running back CJ Verdell run the ball on second-and-two. He fumbled. The Cardinal recovered, kicked a game-tying field goal as time expired, then won in overtime 38-31. Oh, yes, Critobal is working on a 10-year contract at $8 million per. Trojans Stumbling: After botching the anticipated game-winning chip shot field goal at the end of regulation, USC had to go into triple overtime to beat Arizona, a team playing with its backup quarterback, 43-41. They're still winning, but after a series of underwhelming performances, the Trojans are now ranked No. 10. SC's upcoming schedule has to make Lincoln Riley's head spin: this Saturday at Notre Dame; Oct. 21 Utah; Nov. 4 Washington; Nov. 11 at Oregon; Nov. 18 UCLA. With its underperforming defense, I believe SC will lose three of those games.

Niners on Fire: It's still early, but right now the 49ers look like the class of the NFL. Count me among the Brock Purdy believers. "Mr. Irrelevant", the last pick in the draft a few years back, has the most important qualities of a great quarterback--poise in the pocket, intelligent decision-making, and accuracy. He utilizes his vast array of offensive weapons--Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, Deebo Samuels and Brandon Aiyuk-- beautifully.

The defense, led by the best linebacker in the league, Fred Warner, is equally impressive. Once Nick Bosa rounds into shape, they'll be even stronger.

If Purdy stays healthy, I like the 49ers chances this year. What a difference a year makes! Last year the Minnesota Vikings went 11-0 in one score games en route to the NFL playoffs. This year, five weeks into the season, the Vikes are 1-4 in one-score games. Every one of the four losses has been winnable. The Vikes lost by 3 to the Bucs, by 6 to the defending NFC champion Eagles, by 4 to the Chargers and on Sunday by 7 to the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs. Pity poor Kirk Cousins, who has been playing great, but is often criticized as being unable to win the big ones. So far this season, after five games, he's completed 68% of his passes for 1,214 yards and 11 touchdowns, with four interceptions and a quarterback rating of 104.4. Quest is Best: Sunday's WNBA finals opener featured the league's two "super teams," the New York Liberty and the defending champion Las Vegas Aces. The Liberty played a great first half, but the Aces pulled away in the second half before the hometown fans. The biggest difference was guard play, as LV's Jackie Young, Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum completely outplayed the Liberty's Sabrina Ionescu, Courtney Vandersloot and Betnijah Laney. I buy the "super team" monikers, but to me there's no question that our championship ABL team, the 1996-97 Columbus Quest, was better than either of these squads. The Quest featured six great players--Katie Smith, the all-time leading scorer in women's pro basketball (including her ABL and WNBA seasons); the late great Nikki McCray, the league's MVP; Valerie Still, MVP of both of the Quest's championship series wins; all-star guard Tonya Edwards, now assistant coach of the Chicago Sky; Shannon "Pee Wee" Johnson, an all-star in both the ABL and the WNBA; and Andea Lloyd, a women's basketball Hall of Famer and former Olympian.

The quest also had a great coach in Brian Agler, who went on to win WNBA championships with the Seattle Storm and Los Angeles Sparks.


Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//

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