Ohio State football assistant coaching salary pool dips to $7.63 million in 2021

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State Buckeyes assistant coaches Kevin Wilson, left, and Tony Alford arrives inside Indiana University's Memorial Stadium prior to the NCAA football game in Bloomington, Ind. on Aug. 31, 2017. Wilson is the former head coach at Indiana. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

Ohio State football’s assistant coaching salary pool will be about $7.63 million next season, according to copies of contracts obtained by The Dispatch through a public-records request.

The total represents a slight decrease from last season in which the base salary pool was just shy of $8 million before the enactment of voluntary 5% pay reductions.

Combined salaries of the Buckeyes’ on-field assistants had risen in each year since the NCAA allowed teams to hire a 10th on-field assistant in 2018.

This year’s dip is owed to the retirement of defensive co-coordinator Greg Mattison, who had been among their highest-paid assistants, making seven figures. Last season, he was scheduled to earn $1.13 million in base salary.

To replace Mattison on the full-time staff, the Buckeyes promoted quality control coach Parker Fleming to special teams coordinator. Fleming is scheduled to receive a $300,000 base salary, which is tied with quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis for the lowest among the on-field assistants.

Ohio State did not hire a co-coordinator to replace Mattison and pair with Kerry Coombs.

When announcing the staff reshuffling in February, coach Ryan Day said it was not made with any financial constraints in mind, citing a preference to maintain continuity over pursuing an outside hire.  

But Day acknowledged the “strain” the coronavirus pandemic has had on the athletic department’s operating budget, which is expected to run a deficit in this fiscal year after it was left without income from football ticket sales in 2020, its largest source of revenue.

Under a conference-wide policy due to COVID-19, the general public was not permitted to attend Big Ten football games last season.

The latest budget estimate from Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith came in January when he told The Dispatch that the department was projecting to be about $60-70 million in the red.

Four of the Buckeyes’ assistants are still to receive pay raises in 2021, led by offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, who will make $1.4 million after previously receiving a base salary of $1.2 million for 2020, according to Wednesday's newly released contract information. Coombs has been scheduled to make a base salary worth $1.4 million since he was hired as defensive coordinator last year.

Former special teams coordinator Matt Barnes will get $600,000 in his new role as secondary coach, bumping up his pay from $450,000.

Al Washington, who turned down an offer from Tennessee to become the Volunteers’ defensive coordinator, remaining as the Buckeyes’ linebackers coach, is to earn $600,000 in base salary after he had been scheduled to receive $515,000 last year.

Washington would have likely seen his salary double had he left for Knoxville.

The Volunteers hired Penn State assistant as their defensive coordinator, giving him a three-year contract worth $1.3 million next season. It then increases to $1.4 million in 2022 and $1.5 million in 2023.

Ohio State wide receivers coach Brian Hartline is also up to $600,000, a raise of $50,000.

The combined raises are worth $500,000.

Running backs coach Tony Alford, who received a two-year contract extension after his previous deal expired in January, did not receive a pay raise from $618,000.

Last season, the Buckeyes’ assistant coaching salary pool was the second-highest in the country, according to a USA TODAY Sports database, trailing only Alabama, which doled out $8.85 million to its 10 assistants.

The Crimson Tide’s salary pool is also down for 2021 as it owes its assistants a combined $7.23 million.