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Why Coastal Carolina had good reason to give football coach Jamey Chadwell a pay raise

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To show they could compete with the big boys of college football, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers didn’t just need to win 11 of their 12 games last year and finish 14th in the nation.

They also decided they needed to drastically increase the pay of their football coach at a time when their athletics department had been hurting from painful cutbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic, including layoffs and furloughs.

It was a sensitive move last December. How could they justify boosting the pay of coach Jamey Chadwell to an average of $1 million annually in guaranteed pay?

“Certainly, we understand what the perception was,” CCU athletics director Matt Hogue told USA TODAY Sports, referring to the timing of the pay raise. “But I think for our institution, it was a strategic move and over time could be a cost-effective move.”

One season later, CCU is 6-0 and ranked 15th in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches poll. In the bigger picture, a recent surge in enrollment at CCU helps show the reason behind this decision last year. It also helps show why many schools decided to raise coaches’ pay during the pandemic despite making cutbacks and layoffs in other parts of the athletics departments — because football success can attract attention and more revenue.

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In CCU’s case, the Chanticleers received unprecedented media exposure last year as they burst onto the national stage, including their first time being ranked in the Top 25, their first time earning a postseason bowl berth and their first time hosting ESPN’s College GameDay.

This fall, CCU, a relatively small university near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, enrolled the largest freshman class in school history with more than 2,500 students, up 9% from 2019, according to figures provided to USA TODAY Sports.

Hogue noted that while football wasn’t the only reason students chose CCU, it likely played a role at a time when universities could not recruit in person.

After going 11-1 in 2020, Coastal Carolina is 6-0 this season under 
coach Jamey Chadwell.
After going 11-1 in 2020, Coastal Carolina is 6-0 this season under coach Jamey Chadwell.

“Anecdotally, I have to think the positive media coverage nationally increased visibility for CCU and could have prompted prospective students to explore CCU and apply,” said Amanda Craddock, CCU’s associate vice president for enrollment management. “Football’s success was happening at the same time as high school seniors were applying to college, so the timing was really good.”

But the timing for Chadwell’s new contract wasn’t so good last December, when the university gave him an extension through 2027 that more than doubled his pay from the $375,000 he was scheduled to make in 2020.

This was months before widespread vaccine availability in the spring helped improve the sports revenue outlook with the prospect of full schedules with full stadiums in the fall.

Last fall amid COVID-19 restrictions, Hogue said his department sustained 15% budget cuts, which amounted to about $4 million. He said the cutbacks affected about 41 positions, including furloughs and layoffs of assistant coaches in non-revenue sports.

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EXPLOSION: The astronomical rise of pay for college football coaches

Before he got his new contract terms, Chadwell also was scheduled to take a pandemic pay cut of about $56,000. Then came his 11-0 run to start the season, making him a hot candidate for vacancies at bigger programs. It gave the school a choice – do something to help keep him or risk losing momentum by having to start over with a new coach.

“Certainly, we had to take our hits,” Hogue said. “We had to take proactive measures to deal with the budgetary reality, but when everything kind of settled in and we saw some of the recruiting success that was taking place (university-wide), we were in a better position to address that situation (with Chadwell).”

Hogue said football’s success had helped improve the budget outlook by December, leading to a recovery. He said most of the lost jobs were restored starting in January, bringing the total number of employees to about 115 in an athletics department supporting about 450 student-athletes.

Chadwell’s $1 million in average pay also may look small compared to the 21 coaches making at least $5 million this year. But that’s about 2.6% of CCU’s $37.9 million in revenues for 2018-19, the most recent year available. By comparison, coach Tom Herman was scheduled to make $6 million last year at Texas, which also is about 2.6% of Texas’ revenues of $224 million in 2018-19.

“Success has a way of driving that recovery,” Hogue said. “It played a role that we were on TV a lot. We had success and were ranked in the College Football Playoff rankings. That was a big push that helped to maybe in a sense collateralize the decision we were making – that we felt was sound.”

Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: bschrotenb@usatoday.com

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coastal Carolina's Jamey Chadwell got pay raise, and for good reason

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