2014 football season lucrative for coaches, too

December 11, 2014 by Derek Redd

Plenty of folks are licking their chops at the upcoming Boca Raton Bowl matchup between C-USA champ Marshall and MAC champ Northern Illinois. There’s another group that might be smiling, too — the Marshall coaches’ wealth managers.

There were plenty of bonuses to go around with the Thundering Herd’s journey to the C-USA title, starting with head coach Doc Holliday, who made nearly $100,000 in bonuses from this season.

According to Holliday’s contract, he makes $10,000 for winning the East Division, $30,000 for winning the conference title and $30,000 for reaching a bowl game. The conference title and bowl game escalators both increased by $10,000 from his previous contract. In another addition from his extension, he gets $25,000 if Marshall sells more 10,500 season tickets. Put that together, and Holliday made an additional $95,000 this year.

The only escalator he didn’t hit was the $50,000 he would have made for reaching an access bowl.

Marshall’s assistants also came out ahead, each getting a month’s salary as a bonus for the season. Speaking of assistant coach salaries, USA Today released its new salary database for assistant football coaches. It’s pretty cool, as you can see. It’s sortable by category and has the info for nearly every team in the country (private schools like Stanford, Vanderbilt and Rice aren’t obligated under open records laws to provide that information). Here are some tidbits I found just by peeking around it for a few minutes:

– Of the C-USA schools that reported (Rice didn’t), Marshall defensive coordinator Chuck Heater and offensive coordinator Bill Legg are the third- and f0urth-highest paid assistants in the league. Heater is third at $202,656, and Legg is fourth at $201,456. The top two highest-paid assistants in C-USA are Western Kentucky defensive coordinator Nick Holt at $303,000 and Middle Tennessee defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix at $287,600.

– By the way, Holt’s contract makes up almost a third of the $978,480 that WKU pays to its assistants.

– UTEP spent the most on its assistants in C-USA, totalling $1,167,375. Marshall is fifth at $1,056,938. Here are the schools that reported their salaries, in order:

UTEP — $1,167,375

North Texas — $1,148,300

Middle Tennessee — $1,131,886

Florida International — $1.065,400

Marshall — $1,056,938

Southern Miss — $1,025,000

UAB — $1,011,000

Louisiana Tech — $999,700

Western Kentucky — $978,480

Old Dominion — $919,640

Florida Atlantic — $820,600

UTSA — $786,175

– And here are the salaries of Marshall’s assistants, according to the database:

Chris Barclay, running backs — $80,000

Mike Furrey, receivers — $82,762

Sean Cronin, defensive line — $88,456

J.C. Price, defensive line — $88,956

Todd Hartley, tight ends/recruiting coordinator — $89,350

Adam Fuller, linebackers — $111,456

Alex Mirabal, offensive line — $111,846

Bill Legg, offensive coordinator — $201,456

Chuck Heater, defensive coordinator — $202,656

– The highest-paid assistant coach in the database is Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster at $1,369,500, followed by Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart at $1,355,850. Five assistants made more than $1 million — Foster, Smart, LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron ($1,315,967), LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis($1,312,300) and former Clemson offensive coordinator (now SMU head coach) Chad Morris ($1,301,250).

– Eight coaches in the database made less than $50,000. Two, Texas Tech’s Matt Brock and Georgia State’s Brock Lough, made $35,000.

Regarding the C-USA MVP (or When 140 Characters Isn’t Enough)

December 10, 2014 by Derek Redd

Conference USA announced its individual awards Wednesday afternoon, which included a weird occurrence. Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato was named the C-USA offensive player of the year. Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty was named C-USA MVP.

But when all-conference teams were announced the day before, the list was configured in a way that spurred me to tweet this Wednesday afternoon …

I got a few responses, mostly explaining that “best” doesn’t always mean “most valuable.” And that returns us to a longstanding debate of the definition of “Most Valuable Player.” How does one determine value? Can one player be ranked ahead of another, yet the lower-ranked player be considered more valuable?

I’d respectfully say no. It’s one thing to have that debate between players at different positions, which has been seen in NFL MVP-Offensive/Defensive Player of the Year votes. The quarterback puts up ridiculous numbers, but the running back means more to the team. Both are considered the top players at their respective positions.

The difference here: The same coaches who voted Cato over Doughty for first-team quarterback honors voted Doughty over Cato for MVP.

And that’s not to discount Doughty’s accomplishments. He led the FBS with 4,344 yards and 44 touchdowns, which are absolutely mind-boggling stats. He was also one of just four FBS quarterbacks to throw at least 509 passes. Cato numbers aren’t shabby either — 3,622 yards and 37 touchdowns — and he got those in 414 attempts.

The big difference is in the records. Cato’s Herd went 12-1. Doughty’s Hilltoppers went 7-5, mainly because WKU’s defense was one of the nation’s worst.

Hmmm, crazy stats. Lesser record due to bad defense. MVP Award. Where have we heard this before.

Oh, yeah, when Cato won the 2012 conference MVP award when Marshall went 5-7 and Cato led the nation in passing.

So there’s precedent there in one form, but not in another. When Cato was the conference MVP in 2012, he also was the first-team quarterback.

And while Doughty’s presence under center is a huge reason the ‘Toppers won seven games, don’t understate Cato’s value in Marshall’s 12 wins. Many of the reads Cato makes in the Marshall offense are post-snap, which means it’s his choice whether it’s a run play, pass play or keeper. And he has to make that choice in mere seconds. And with that in mind, Marshall finished second in total offense and fifth in scoring offense.

Devon Johnson led C-USA in rushing, despite three games where he carried the ball a total of seven times. He should have been an offensive player of the year candidate, too. But if there’s any counter to the argument, it’s that in those three games where he either didn’t play or barely played, Marshall struggled on the ground just once, with 121 yards against Louisiana Tech. The Herd ran for 335 yards against Southern Miss and 291 yards against WKU.

Honestly, if the coaches flip-flopped the awards and made Cato MVP and Doughty offensive player of the year, I’m not even writing this blog post. Both QBs are fantastic and both deserve recognition. It’s just that in doling out the awards as they did, they’re saying the second-best quarterback is the most valuable player in the conference, and that’s just a head-scratcher.



Mike Hamrick with strong words for Boca Raton Bowl critics

December 8, 2014 by Derek Redd

Marshall held a press conference Monday afternoon to discuss the football team’s upcoming Boca Raton Bowl matchup with Northern Illinois. Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick was there, as was coach Doc Holliday and players Darryl Rouse, Neville Hewitt, Chris Jasperse, James Rouse, Tommy Shuler and Rakeem Cato.

It’s a champion-versus-champion game, Marshall the Conference USA champ and NIU the Mid-American Conference champ. But some Marshall fans took to social media and the message boards to grouse about the Herd’s destination and opponent, that they’d have rather seen the team play 6-6 Big Ten team Illinois in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

During the Sunday-night conference call announcing the game and Monday’s press conference, Hamrick spent a lot of time reinforcing the idea that this Marshall-NIU game was the best possible scenario for the Herd. I asked him Monday if it frustrated him that he seemed to have to defend Marshall’s bowl game. He had some pretty pointed words for those critics. Here’s his response, in full, below:

I don’t like negativity. I can remember getting here six years ago, I would look at our schedule and try to count six wins, and see if we could get six wins and go to a bowl game. And if we could, it was great. Now these guys win 12 games and a championship and under the circumstances we’re under, we’re going to play in what I think is a very, very good bowl game at a very, very good location in a very, very good place.

And any negativity towards that is, to me, an insult to these players, is an insult to this coach, is an insult to me and is an insult to this university. These guys were one point away from winning every game. We’re 12-1. How many teams in this country are 12-1? You’re counting on your fingers. There’s not very many. And our fans – and we’ve got some great fans, and we’ve got some not-so-great fans like everybody else – but our fans need to go to Florida and they need to support these guys when they’re playing their last game. Because the culture of this program was in the dumpster when I arrived here. And it’s been changed. And there’s six guys here and a coach who’ve changed it. Won the first Conference USA championship out there Saturday.

And for our fans not to get behind these guys in their last game is a shame. It’ll be a shame. But I know there will be many who will, because I’ve talked with many this morning that will. So I’m not going to sit here and defend … our goal was to play in the access bowl. Yeah, we’re disappointed about that. We lost a game in overtime by one point. We lost a game. But, you know what? To go play another champion who played in the 2012 Orange Bowl, who’s been to seven straight bowls, who’s won three of the last four Mid-American Conference championships, I’m not going to apologize to anybody for that. Our fans need to go to Boca and they need to support these kids, because there’s six great kids sitting up here and a great coach sitting at this table right here.

Sure, I wish we were tied into the Rose Bowl or the Sugar Bowl or the Orange Bowl or whatever, but you know what? We’re not. That’s where we are right now with our conference and our program. But we’ve got a chance to go play a good team and we’ve got a chance to go play a champion from another conference that’s compared at our level. And we need to get down there and we need to show people what Marshall University and Marshall University football is all about. And I’m convinced these guys and this coach will do that.

Where should the Herd go bowling?

December 7, 2014 by Derek Redd

In winning its first Conference USA title, Marshall’s football team should have its pick of bowl destinations among conference-affiliated games. Actually, C-USA said earlier this season that the champ would get that choice. Now, as the season has gone on, I’ve heard that the conference office will have at least some influence on the destination. So where should the Herd spend bowl season?

It depends on everyone’s preference.

C-USA went this entire season without a win over a Power 5 conference. Even the Sun Belt can say it accomplished that. C-USA has one last shot to rectify that situation in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, which pits a C-USA team against one of the Big Ten’s lower tier of bowl-eligible teams.

One would think that the conference champ would have the best chance of any conference team in scoring a win over one of the big boys. And, for most of the season, Marshall has shown the firepower necessary to run with that crowd. And here’s the other thing: Marshall played zero Power 5 foes this year after Louisville pushed its visit to Huntington to 2016. That’s one of the reasons a 12-1 C-USA champ isn’t in the conversation for the Group of 5 spot in the “New Year’s Six” Bowls.

Marshall could get its one chance to prove it can hang with the big boys (granted, they’d do it against a team like 6-6 Illinois or 7-5 Rutgers) in Dallas. So it should be a no-brainer, right?

Here’s the other factor: Bowls like butts in seats.

That’s why a lot of folks are saying that UTEP is pretty much locked into the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque. And that’s what made last season’s Military Bowl pairing so tantalizing for its committee. You had Marshall, sitting only a few hours away, versus Maryland, playing a bowl in its backyard. And the announced attendance of more than 30,000 reflected that.  So which team would put more keisters in the Cotton Bowl? Would it be the C-USA champ whose fans would have to hop on flights to watch?

Or would it be the C-USA runner-up, Louisiana Tech, which has a big fan base in Shreveport, which is less than a three-hour drive from Cotton Bowl Stadium? Would that be enough to shift the Bulldogs there and the Herd elsewhere? And where else could Marshall go?

Well, we all know Doc Holliday likes Florida. Twenty-nine players on his roster are from the Sunshine State. And C-USA has a slot in the new Boca Raton Bowl at FAU Stadium. More than a quarter of the roster getting a chance to play its final game at or near home in the middle of one of Marshall’s most fertile recruiting grounds? Sounds pretty good, right?

Welp, there’s a catch. Marshall would likely play a Mid-American Conference team. It’s already played three. And that’s one thing critics of its schedule harped on all season. That raises another question: Would Marshall fans fly to South Florida, where it was 80 degrees yesterday and you can see the beach from FAU Stadium, if they had to watch the Herd play another MAC team? And would Marshall and C-USA want to give their critics more ammunition by keeping the Herd away from Power 5 competition?

(Another possible factor: The Boca Raton Bowl is Dec. 23, and the Heart of Dallas Bowl is Dec. 26. Boca would have fans back home in time for Christmas Day. You’re celebrating in the Lone Star State with the Heart of Dallas.)

C-USA has three other primary bowl affiliations: The New Mexico, Hawaii and Bahamas bowls. UTEP looks likely for New Mexico. And the conference would be downright crazy in shuttling its champion to either Honolulu or Nassau. Do you really want to force your best team’s fan base to either shell out tons of money for a Hawaii trip or have it scrambling for passports for the Bahamas, or risk empty stadiums for your marquee team in either market?

Could there be some wheeling and dealing behind the scenes to trade the Herd to another bowl? Possibly, but if I’m C-USA, I’d have to have a guarantee that Marshall would play a marketable opponent. And even then, why do that when you can put Marshall in Dallas in a bowl where its namesake is a nonprofit organization that boasts the C-USA commissioner as the president of its board of directors?

So it probably comes down to competition versus location. Does C-USA want Marshall to play a power conference team? Then ship ‘em to Dallas. Wanna send a big chunk of the team home for the holidays? Put ‘em on the beach in Boca.

The destination should be announced around 3 p.m. Sunday. The rush to Kayak.com for flight prices will begin soon after.

Gameday, Part XIII — Whole lotta news goin’ on

December 6, 2014 by Brad McElhinny

Let’s start this endeavor with a special edition of the Bowl Projection Roundup. The results of last week changed those prognostications significantly.

ere’s the lineup for this week …

Jerry Palm (CBSSports.com) — Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. Rugters; Go5 Pick — Arizona vs. Boise State in Fiesta Bowl

Brett McMurphy (ESPN.com) — Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. Illinois; Go5 Pick — Arizona vs. Boise State in Fiesta Bowl

Mark Schlabach (ESPN.com) — Boca Raton Bowl vs. Western Michigan; Go5 Pick — Arizona vs. Boise State in Fiesta Bowl

Phil Steele — Bahamas Bowl  vs. Western Michigan; Go5 Pick — Arizona vs. Boise State in Fiesta Bowl

USA Today — Hawaii Bowl vs. Air Force — Go5 Pick — Arizona vs. Boise State in Fiesta Bowl

Jason Kirk (SBNation) — Bahamas Bowl vs. Western Michigan; Go5 Pick — Arizona vs. Boise State in Fiesta Bowl

Mike Huguenin (NFL.com) — Hawaii Bowl vs. Air Force; Go5 Pick — Arizona vs. Boise State in Fiesta Bowl

Bill Bender (SportingNews.com) — Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. Rutgers; Go5 Pick — Ohio State vs. Boise State in Fiesta Bowl

National Football Post — Boca Raton Bowl vs. Toledo; Go5 Pick — Arizona vs. Boise State in Fiesta Bowl

Athlon — Boca Raton Bowl vs. Toledo; Go5 Pick — Arizona vs. Boise State in Fiesta Bowl

Lotta Bahamas and Hawaii in that group. If Marshall goes to Hawaii, I’ll be stunned. Marshall fans should travel well enough to keep the team in the continental 48.

Now to the game. RB Devon Johnson is in pads, but as he ran through warmups, he wasn’t moving that left arm too well. If he plays, I’ll be very surprised. But that’s nothing compared to Louisiana Tech’s bombshell announcement right before the game that six players, five starters, are academically ineligible. The starters are LG Tre Carter, RT Mitchell Bell, DT Aaron Brown and LBs Tony Johnson, Terrell Pinson. Backup WR Tevin King also is ineligible. That list includes the second- and third-leading tacklers on the team and a pair of offenisve linemen with a total of 41 starts between them. LA Tech is on quarters and the latest one began Dec. 3 which led to this unfortunate event.

(Reminder to any student-athletes that may read this blog: Go to class.)

Welp, that sounds like enough news for now. Stick around below for some live coverage. Otherwise …

Happy First Home Conference Title Game In 12 Years Day, y’all.

Live Blog Conference USA championship

Gameday, Part XII — So how long does it take to start a rivalry?

November 28, 2014 by Derek Redd

Apparently, it doesn’t even have to take a minute of actual game time.

Marshall and Western Kentucky had themselves a little scuffle right at midfield during warmups. Offsetting personal foul flags were tossed into the air. I’m sure that’ll ensure a calm and gentlemanly contest for 60 minutes. Considering the two teams are only a couple-hundred miles apart, this could be an entertaining feud in coming years.

I saw Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky in the press box earlier. We’ll see him here next week, too. The conference hasn’t announced it, but looking at the tiebreakers, there’s no reason the Herd won’t host either Louisiana Tech or Rice in the C-USA title game next week. Whether a “New Year’s Six” Bowl will be in play in that game will be decided today.

As I’ve said elsewhere, this WKU team is the spitting image of the 2012 Marshall team — scores a ton of points, gives up a ton of points. So I’ll figure there will be scoring, but Marshall will tally more than WKU. Not much else to be said here. Stick around below for some live discussion. Otherwise …

Happy Regular Season Finale, y’all.

Live Blog Senior Day for the Herd



Are there any C-USA title game ties left to break?

November 26, 2014 by Derek Redd

It remains a mystery as to where the Conference USA football championship game will take place, insomuch as the conference has yet to announce the game site. The participants are down to three. Marshall, the East Division champ, is a lock. The West Division comes down to Saturday’s game between Rice and Louisiana Tech, the winner taking the West.

But is the game site really a mystery? Let’s look at the conference’s tiebreaker scenarios and where the Herd fits into them:

1. Highest regular-season winning percentage based on overall C-USA play. – If Marshall wins Friday over Western Kentucky, it’ll finish the conference slate at 8-0. Both Rice and Louisiana Tech have a conference loss, so Marshall would host in that scenario.

2. If tied, head-to-head between tied teams. — If Marshall does happen to lose Friday, the Herd already owns the head-to-head edge over Rice through its 41-14 win over the Owls on Nov. 15. Marshall has not yet played Louisiana Tech, so if both are 7-1 in conference, we head to the next tiebreaker.

3. If still tied, the most recent College Football Playoff Selection Committee poll will be used if one team or both teams are ranked. — That most recent ranking would be the one that was released Tuesday, which had Marshall at No. 24 and neither Rice nor Louisiana Tech anywhere on the list. They’re not going to wait until next Tuesday’s poll, because the conference isn’t crazy enough to wait until Tuesday night to announce the site for a noon Saturday game. At least it shouldn’t be. So this tiebreaker falls in the Herd’s favor, too.

4. If still tied, highest average computer ranking (computed after eliminating the highest and lowest rankings; then averaging the four remaining rankings). — Based on the wording of the third tiebreaker, it shouldn’t even get to the fourth tiebreaker. But, for the sake of argument, let’s ask this question: How would an 11-1 Marshall fall below an 8-4 Louisiana Tech in the computer rankings?

I’m almost certain you won’t hear anything from the conference office about a game site until the weekend. But if you’re a Marshall fan, I think you can comfortably book a hotel room in Huntington for next Saturday.

Gameday, Part XI — Throwback Saturday

November 22, 2014 by Brad McElhinny

When you’re sitting in the open-air press box of a stadium that opened in 1927, what else can you call it?

Let’s start with who’s here and who’s not. Cody Carter is not, which isn’t good for kick coverage, which isn’t good since J.J. Nelson has taken three back for touchdowns this season. Antavis Rowe and Gary Thompson, who’s been out since leaving the ODU game with a leg injury, are here.

And here’s who else might be here — Holly Anderson from Grantland, Dan Wolken from USA Today, Ray Glier from the New York Times and Jon Solomon from CBSSports.com. Glier and Solomon are in the press box and already have talked to Marshall AD Mike Hamrick this morning. This is Anderson’s second Marshall game.  As much as this College Football Playoff stuff has driven Marshall fans to drink, it definitely has created some national interest in the Thundering Herd.

As for the game, let me make a note on the turf at Legion Field. I walked across it on my way to the press box. That’s gonna hurt like hell when someone gets tackled. It’s like playing football in a parking lot.

Make that an empty parking lot. Thirty minutes before kickoff and there’s barely a soul in this 70,000-plus-seat stadium. So this game will have the atmosphere of the surface of the moon. That didn’t help Marshall last time. Neither did letting UAB knock out a pair of 11-play, 80-yard scoring drives. But this team hasn’t had a problem bringing its own energy this season, so it’ll be interesting to see if that carries over to today.

That’s all from here for now. Stick around underneath for some live commentary. Otherwise …

Happy Last Road Game of the Season Day, y’all.

Live Blog Herd tries to stay perfect at UAB

Numberosity — UAB Week

November 21, 2014 by Derek Redd

This blog post is rated “S” for “Sweet Home, Alabama.” Though, in Marshall’s case it would be “Sweet Away, Alabama.” “Sweet Visit, Alabama?” Whatever.

Let’s dredge up some unpleasant memories, shall we?

2 — Total number of drives Marshall’s 2012 game at UAB that the Blazers went at least 11 plays for 80 yards.

11:44 — UAB’s time of possession in the fourth quarter in that game.

34:31 — UAB’s total time of possession in that game.

5.0 — UAB’s average yards per rush in that game.

196.9 — UAB’s rushing average this season.

115.7 — UAB RB Jordan Howard’s rushing average this season.

5 — Howard’s rank on UAB’s career rushing list with 2,038 yards. He’s a sophomore.

On the flip side …

142.0 — Average rushing total Marshall allows this season, third-best in C-USA, and the only major defensive category where the Herd isn’t ranked first in the conference.

3 — Kickoffs that UAB returner J.J. Nelson has taken back for touchdowns this season, the only player in the nation to do so.

40 — Touchbacks kicked by Marshall this season, seventh best in the FBS. Can’t score if you can’t return them.

10 — Seasons since UAB has been bowl eligible. The Blazers’ last bowl was the 2004 Hawai’i Bowl.

15 — Seasons since Marshall has gone at least 10-0. The 1999 team finished 13-0.

1 — Touchdown quarterback Rakeem Cato needs to become No. 2 in all of college football history in consecutive games with a touchdown pass. He’s tied with Holy Cross QB Dominic Randolph (FCS) with 42. The all-time leader is Central Washington’s Mike Reilly (D-II) with 46. He can tie that record if his streak lasts through Marshall’s bowl game.

And finally …

100 — Percentage of certainty that the curator of this blog will dine on barbecue this weekend. If ever there was a sure bet.


AP Voter Roundup, Week 13

November 20, 2014 by Derek Redd

The boys at CollegePollTracker.com once again do the heavy lifting for us. We’ll just hone in on the Marshall/Colorado State comparisons.

Overall record

Marshall: 10-0

Colorado State: 9-1

Ranking this week

Marshall: 18th

Colorado State: 22nd

Highest ranking

Marshall: 11th (Scott Nulph, Laramie (Wyo.) Boomerang)

Colorado State: 16th (Kellis Robinett, Wichita (Kan.) Eagle)

Where voters ranked them most

Marshall: 18th (8 voters)

Colorado State: 20th (12 voters)

Voters who left team off their ballots

Marshall: 5*

Colorado State: 5

Here’s why there’s an asterisk by the voters who left Marshall off their ballots. Bill Rabinowitz from the Columbus Dispatch in Ohio and Keith Sargeant from the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey said they both mistakenly omitted the Herd from their ballots. So, really, it would be three guys who purposefully left Marshall off their ballots.