Clemson win over Ohio State in Orange Bowl delivers fascinating distraction from coaches' money grab

MIAMI GARDENS — On Friday night, in a stadium not accustomed to such scoring, you had to be at least a little interested in the Orange Bowl, even if you're not an Ohio State or Clemson fan.

You had to be interested in seeing why Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins has NFL scouts fascinated. You had to be interested in watching an ACC team win in a BCS game for just the fourth time in 17 tries.

You also had to be interested in Clemson's 40-35 win, because this was the lone BCS game that made it easy to enjoy the fun of college football and ignore the modern gold rush that gets to the crux of the sport and soils its soul.

This is the only BCS game where a coach wasn't mentioned for the next job. That's not due to any principled standing. Ohio State's Urban Meyer is fresh off a latest money deal. Clemson's Dabo Swinney is probably a year away.

The most precious commodity in college football remains the star coach. And it's never been more precious than this year. Friday's big news was Louisville's former coach, Charlie Strong, is reportedly the new Texas coach and Miami coach Al Golden is meeting with Penn State officials.

No other sport throws around pristine phrases like, "student-athlete" while soaking coaches in money quite like college football. In fact, Strong taking the Texas job closes a fascinating pipeline of profit for the coaching community.

We talked a lot for a while about Alabama's Nick Saban possibly leaving for Texas. Saban's shrewd agent, Jimmy Sexton, let everyone keep talking until Saban got a seven-figure pay raise from Alabama.

We then talked of Michigan State's Mark Dantonio and Florida State's Jimbo Fisher going to Texas, at least until they signed new contracts at their respective schools, too.

This is annual gold rush in college football. The only change is there's more gold. And fewer questions about grabbing some.

Did Texas interview Baylor's Art Briles and UCLA's Jim Mora, too? Or were their agents just throwing their names into the conversation to increase stature and bump pay?

On Thursday, I received a call from an agent wanting to put his client's name in a Miami story. The idea was to circulate his name, increase his value and hope someone indeed hires him.

It's unclear if the Miami job is even open. It's a better position to win big than Penn State. But Penn State has the lure of home to Golden, as well as more money in the short term.

There's no right or wrong in Golden's answer. There's just a decision that tells us who he is and what kind of job he wants.

The financial difference is real, not just for Golden but his assistants, too. Penn State paid $3.6 million a year to the departed Bill O'Brien. Golden is paid about $2.15 million.

Would you want to be paid one-third less than you could? Would you want your assistants to be paid that much less, too?

This is the story of college football. Money is dropping on coaches like bank vaults. All you have to do is situate yourself properly.

Meyer knows. He won big at Florida. But something became too much for him there, just as it did for the school's other big winner, Steve Spurrier. It happens. Look around college football.

Meyer landed back home at Ohio State, where he won 24 straight to start his era before being sent to his second straight defeat on Friday night. Swinney was the big winner from the Orange Bowl. Maybe his name goes in lights next year.

That was an archaic week at the Orange Bowl of football questions, and only football questions, leading into a night of football, only football. The student-athletes played hard. The coaches talked of pride at being here.

Money was ringing loudly and openly elsewhere across the college football landscape on Friday. At the Orange Bowl, you could pretend it was still only about football.



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