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Chuck Landon: Departures hurt, but show MU hiring well

Feb. 13, 2013 @ 12:25 AM

Marshall is a stepping-stone school.

Like it or not, it's the reality of being a mid-major athletic program.

That means attrition in Marshall's coaching staff has to be expected. In fact, that's actually the litmus test for whether Marshall is making good hires.

If bigger schools from marquee conferences aren't wooing young, up-and-coming Marshall assistant coaches or staff members away, then it raises questions concerning how good of a job they are doing.

That certainly hasn't been a problem lately.

Marshall compliance director Derek Gwinn is leaving for a similar job at Virginia Tech. Associate head trainer Toby Hankins left Marshall to accept the same position at Illinois.

Football-wise, wide receiver coach Gerad Parker is heading to Purdue as tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. And cornerbacks coach Anthony Midget left after about 10 days when Penn State made an offer nobody could refuse.

All that is actually good news because it means Marshall has been doing an excellent job of hiring. Sure, it would be nice not to lose those quality staff members and coaches, but it is the natural order of life at a mid-major.

Yet, Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick is committed to trying to keep quality coaches as long as possible. That is why he has increased the football assistant coaches' salary pool by $200,000 since 2008.

"When I got here we had $820,000 to pay nine people," said Hamrick. "Now, we are at $1.02 million."

Of course, that still doesn't mean Marshall can compete financially with the Purdues and Penn States of the world.

"When Big Ten schools call," said Hamrick, "it's hard to keep those guys at Marshall. The Big Ten assistant coaches' salary pool is $2-3 million."

But, at least, the Herd is trying to pay competitive salaries at its mid-major level.

"Our assistant coaches' salaries have been so low," said Hamrick. "Finally, we're getting them to where they will at least be competitive."

For example, in 2008 the three lowest paid assistant football coaches were paid $47,000; $54,000; and $57,000. But, now, the three lowest paid assistants are earning $75,000; $85,000; and $90,000.

"We're making an effort to get things where they need to be," said Hamrick.

Want proof? Look no further than Marshall's new strength and conditioning head coach Scott Sinclair.

When former coach Joe Miday departed to accept the same position at Western Kentucky his salary was only $57,000. That is very low by industry standards.

Coaches are like most professions.

You get what you pay for.

That's why Hamrick nearly doubled the head strength and conditioning coach's salary, paying Sinclair $100,000.

"We're doing everything we can to keep up," said Hamrick. "But assistant coaches' salaries are going through the roof nationally."

Indeed, they are.

That's why Hamrick recalled the salary standard from his football playing days at Marshall.

"I played for Frank Ellwood for three years," said Hamrick. "In 1978, Ellwood had $90,000 to pay seven assistant coaches."

Talk about inflation.

The bottom line is Marshall is trying to be competitive on the playing field by being competitive off the field with salaries.

That's all anyone can ask from a stepping-stone school like Marshall.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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