That turnover was among the reasons head coach Bret Bielema bolted for Arkansas. He reportedly secured a $3 million pool for assistant coaches at Arkansas, about $1 million more than he had at his disposal in Madison.

Fitzgerald praised NU's administration for producing "competitive salaries," and Phillips said the university has gotten "creative" with bonuses and supplemental income to combat the high cost of living on the North Shore.

Many of the coaches live on the border of Evanston and Skokie – "Skevanston," they like to call it.

"One thing I learned a long time ago," said Bates, an ace recruiter and 32-year coaching vet, "is that the grass isn't always greener. A few more dollars doesn't necessarily make you happier. Our head coach lets me be my personality. That's fairly unique."


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Said Fitzgerald: "We've brought in guys who share the vision for the program. Their families really enjoy and embrace living here. The schools are second to none. The communities are amazing. And we're in Chicago's backyard."

Every summer Springer and his wife, Nicole, have daughters Sophia and Sydney compose a wish list of activities.

The result was an overnight stay in a downtown Chicago hotel, plus visits to the Lincoln Park Zoo, Field Museum and a dance recital at Columbia College.

So in addition to working for a head coach he praises as "very direct and to the point, so you know where you stand," Springer can keep his loved ones happy.

"Evanston and Chicago have so much to offer," he said.

tgreenstein@tribune.com

Twitter @TeddyGreenstein