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1,000 Words: A real fun fact from Nevada's last football coaching search

Jay Norvell
Jay Norvell won Nevada's head-coaching job in December 2016, but the other two top candidates for the job have won in the bank account. (John Byrne/Nevada athletics)

Nevada Sports Net columnist Chris Murray is known to be a bit wordy, so we're giving him 1,000 words (but no more than that) to share his thoughts from the week that was in the world of sports.

* WHEN NEVADA WAS LOOKING for a head football coach in December 2016, it brought three men to campus for interviews. Those coaches were Jay Norvell, Beau Baldwin and Andy Ludwig. Norvell was the wide receivers coach at Arizona State. Baldwin was the head coach at Eastern Washington. Ludwig was the offensive coordinator at Vanderbilt. Ultimately, Nevada picked Norvell, but the other two somehow came out as the financial winners. Such is the case when it comes to the Wolf Pack and money.

* AS MANY OF YOU KNOW, I love my Fun Facts. Here’s the latest. Despite not getting Nevada’s head job, Baldwin and Ludwig will actually make more money than Norvell in 2019 despite simply being Pac-12 offensive coordinators. Ludwig moved from Vanderbilt to Utah this offseason and signed a three-year, $2.5 million contract that will pay him $820,000 this season to serve as the Utes' offensive coordinator. Beau Baldwin left EWU to be Cal’s offensive coordinator after being passed over for the Nevada job and signed a three-year, $1.71 million deal that pays him $570,000 annually, not to mention performance and retention bonuses (he’s already racked up $265,000 in retention and signing bonuses).

* NORVELL, MEANWHILE, GOT the Nevada job and made $450,000 in his first season before being bumped to $500,000 last year, where his salary will remain through the end of his deal, which expires in 2021. So, Ludwig gets $820,000 per year, Baldwin $570,000 (but more like $650,000 with the retention bonuses) and Norvell $500,000. I'd love to get an honest response from Ludwig or Baldwin about whether they'd prefer the money or Nevada’s head job. My guess is the head job. I know Norvell would answer that way. He spent 30-plus years as an assistant waiting to lead a team, so the opportunity to do that trumps whatever his paycheck reads. Same probably applies to Ludwig, who has never been a head coach despite a 30-year coaching career, and Baldwin, who hasn’t been a head man at the FBS level.

* I BRING UP THESE SALARIES to show how much of a divide there is between the Group of 5 and the Power 5. Cal isn’t even a good Pac-12 team, going 54-70 over the last 10 seasons (and 0-2 against Nevada in that period). Yet, it can pay its offensive coordinator more than Nevada’s head coach. Utah has been stronger than Cal in recent years (62-41 since moving to the Pac-12 in 2011), but it’s just eight years removed from being a Mountain West school and now can pay its offensive coordinator $320,000 more than Nevada’s head coach. The Power 5 is a whole different world than the MW.

* THE DIVIDE ISN’T ONLY between the Group of 5 and Power 5. There’s a divide in the MW, too. Boise State paid its 11-man football staff (head coach and 10 assistants) a combined $3.995 million last season compared to Nevada’s $1.891 million. That’s more than double the investment. So, while I get when Wolf Pack fans get mad when Nevada loses to Boise State, including a 31-27 defeat last season, sometimes you get what you pay for. Money doesn’t always lead to wins, though. Colorado State’s staff made $3.742 million last season but went 3-9, including a 49-10 loss to Nevada. Wyoming’s staff made $3.336 million and didn’t reach a bowl.

* THE WOLF PACK RANKED 11th out of 11 MW teams in staff salary last season (Hawaii did not provide numbers for the USA Today database). Squeezing an 8-5 season and bowl win out of that investment, like the Wolf Pack did in 2018, is good bang for your buck. On a per-win basis, Nevada had one of the best bargains in the nation. But unless Wolf Pack fans respond by pouring money into the program, via donations and Blitz Club membership and, most crucially, season-ticket purchases, it will be hard to take the next step to becoming the championship program Norvell is trying to build.

* NEVADA BASKETBALL HAS MADE that leap, in large part because investments from fans and donors have allowed the program to make a big jump in revenue creation that has been reinvested into the program. Nevada football, which has always operated on the cheap even in the Chris Ault days, is trying to do the same thing. That’s why attendance figures always interest me. Despite the increased level of play last season and a strong home schedule that included contests with a Pac-12 team (Oregon State) and two ranked foes and longtime rivals (Boise State, Fresno State), the Wolf Pack finished ninth out of 12 MW teams in per-game attendance at 17,181. That must change for Pack football to make the leap.

* MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL announced this week it will play a game at the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa, next season when the Yankees take on the White Sox in a temporary 8,000-seat ballpark at the site where the 1989 movie was filmed. Very cool idea. The right-field wall is expected to include windows to show the cornfields, but I’d prefer if they didn’t even put outfield walls up and used the cornfields as walls. If the ball rolls into the cornfields, it’s a ground-rule double. If it hits the cornfields on a fly, it’s a home run.

* NEW OAKLAND RAIDERS receiver Antonio Brown has missed the start of training camp because he used improper foot protection at a French cryotherapy clinic and developed severe frostbite. You would think if you flew all the way from the United States to France to use a cryotherapy chamber you’d be able to follow directions, but I guess not. It’s not the craziest sports injury I’ve seen, however. Former Los Angeles Kings hockey player back Dustin Penner injured his back while eating his wife's pancakes. He missed one game. And from the “you can’t make this up” file, Penner was later traded on National Pancake Day.

Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at crmurray@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter @MurrayNSN.

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