Ohio State willing to pay for Meyer's staff

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Multiple times during his introductory news conference Monday, new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer talked about putting together the very best staff he can.

All coaches say that, of course. But Meyer has walked the walk before, leading a very talented staff at Florida that included, among others, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, Louisville head coach Charlie Strong, Temple head coach Steve Addazio, Marshall head coach Doc Holliday and Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.

"In 2005 -- I know this is a little biased -- I think we put together the best coaching staff maybe in college football history," Meyer said. "I know that's a profound statement. But what those guys did, the recruits they brought in and the run that team went on, with the great players, the style of offense, defense and kicking game ... my goal is to find that kind of group of coaches again."

Bringing in that kind of all-star staff takes one thing above all else: money. And athletic director Gene Smith says Ohio State is willing to pony up.

"We'll put in place the resources necessary to attract the staff that Urban feels he needs," Smith said.

The Buckeyes haven't exactly been cheap in the past. Former coach Jim Tressel was making more than $3.5 million per year before his forced resignation. Meyer just signed a six-year deal with $4 million annually, plus many incentives. Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman and defensive coordinator Jim Heacock were among the top-paid assistants in the Big Ten, each making $309,000.

But Tressel's staff was often mostly anonymous. And one of the gaps between the Big Ten and other leagues, especially the SEC, has been pay for assistant coaches. According to one recent study, the Big Ten ranked only fourth in assistant football coach compensation, behind the SEC, Big 12 and ACC.

Meanwhile, pay for some assistants in the Big Ten has spiked recently. Michigan is paying Mattison $750,000 a year. Illinois gave offensive coordinator Paul Petrino $525,000, while Wisconsin raised offensive coordinator Paul Chrysts's salary to more than $400,000.

Meyer is keeping current head coach Luke Fickell on staff, likely as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. You've got to figure that Fickell, who was making $775,000 to be the head coach, won't take much of a pay cut.

Meyer said he'll be looking for the right fit when hiring assistants and would love to have coaches with "any kind of Ohio background." However, that won't preclude him from hiring someone with no ties.

"The way I do it, if you're the best secondary coach in college football, I'm going to try to get you to come here coach at Ohio State," he said. "If you're the best offensive line coach, I'm going to do my very best to get you to come here."

Doing the very best means offering a highly-competitive salary. Ohio State is one of the richest athletic departments in the country, so it can afford to dive into this pool. And Smith says he will.

"If you look at Urban's term sheet, it's probably in the top five [among highest paid head coaches]," Smith said. "Two teams in our league have really jumped up [in assistant pay], and Michigan is one of them. So I have to change my thought process and my philosophy."