STILLWATER — During the 2006 football season, Oklahoma State paid a total of $2.05 million to its football coaches.
Mike Gundy collected $762,500. His nine assistants shared the rest.
Adjusted for inflation, $2.05 million in 2006 would amount to $2.6 million today.
Power Five college football laughs at the adjusted-for-inflation concept.
As OSU athletic director Mike Holder has stated over the years, Power Five football has an insatiable appetite for money.
The Tulsa World has obtained the list of 2019 Cowboys coaching salaries, and the collective amount is far beyond $2.6 million.
The list provides a reminder that it’s expensive to play football — and a lot more expensive to play it at a winning level.
The 2019 OSU staff is commanding $9.285 million.
It’s an increase of nearly $3 million beyond the 2014 budget for coaching salaries.
Gundy’s adjusted compensation is $5.125 million. Three assistants — defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, new offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson and receivers coach Kasey Dunn — command at least $500,000.
This statistic has been reported before, but it’s interesting to look back at 1994 — Pat Jones’ final season as the Cowboys head man.
That year, the highest-paid Cowboys assistant made $58,300.
This year, no Cowboys assistant gets less than $200,000.
“It’s crazy, but it’s not going to change,” Gundy acknowledged during OSU’s media day Saturday. “It’s not going to change because people want to win.”
Gundy said it helps that he has a supportive university president. Of Burns Hargis, Gundy said, “He gets it.”
As the cost of retaining coaches continues to skyrocket, I wonder whether there might eventually be a point at which Oklahoma State — and scores of other schools — can’t keep up.
T. Boone Pickens changed this football program, this stadium and this university with donations of more than $500 million. However, as he contends with health issues at the age of 91, he might no longer be OSU’s go-to guy for colossal generosity.
The mission for Holder and other OSU officials is to keep existing donor relationships while cultivating new ones within the population of more recent university graduates.
This is a certainty: The cost of competing will increase every year. Salaries and the operations budget will increase every year.
Oklahoma State faces challenges in fundraising and in ticket sales. If an OSU fan had a household income of $50,000 in 2006, it might be no more than $60,000 today, and yet the money required to maintain OSU football has spiked at a much more dramatic rate.
If there were a survey of the 4,000 people who were here for the annual Fan Appreciation Day session of autographs and photographs, most of them probably are lifetime members of the middle class.
While OSU needs more money than ever, some fans already are forced to make a decision: Can I afford milk, bread, eggs and a house payment while renewing my season tickets?
Most FBS programs are not at the money level sustained at schools like Oklahoma, Texas, Michigan, Ohio State and Alabama. Most schools are at a second or third tier in spending power.
Oklahoma State has a place on that second tier, and there are a lot more schools like OSU than there are schools like OU, Texas and Alabama.
At $500,000, first-year Cowboys assistant Charlie Dickey is the highest-paid offensive line coach in program history.
In 2006, line coach Joe Wickline made $150,000.
At $550,000, Dunn now is the highest-paid position coach in program history. He received a $140,000 raise and a new designation: associate head coach.
In 2006, receivers coach Gunter Brewer made $125,000.
“I have never been denied any money for an assistant coach,” Gundy reported. “We’re all overpaid for what we do, but it’s supply and demand.
“It’s a competitive market. If you don’t (offer an attractive salary), someone else is going to do it.”
Like Holder says, big-time college football consumes money like a shark devours chum.
The OSU program has a streak of 13 consecutive winning seasons and bowl appearances. Sustaining the status quo requires a lot of money.