First it was skyrocketing salaries for head coaches, launched into intergalactic depths by Alabama's eight-year, $32 million deal in 2007 with Nick Saban, who Forbes called the "most powerful coach in sports."
Now trickle-down economics have reached the assistant ranks, with Tennessee announcing that its nine assistant coaches will be paid $3.325 million this year, making these lucky men part of what is believed to be the highest-paid staff of assistants in college football.
Two members of Lane Kiffin's staff are kin, as they like to say in the Smoky Mountains. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, the coach's father, will be paid $1.2 million. Quarterbacks coach David Reaves, Lane's brother-in-law, has a salary of $150,000.
Recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron's salary is $650,000. Other staff salaries and responsibilities:
Jim Chaney (offensive coordinator/offensive line): $380,000
Lance Thompson (linebackers): $350,000
Eddie Gran (running backs/special teams): $185,000
James Cregg (tight Ends/tackles): $150,000
Frank Wilson (receivers): $150,000
Willie Garza (defensive backs): $110,000
Alabama had the highest-paid staff last year in the Southeastern Conference at $2.405 million, so Tennessee has the Crimson Tide beat by more than $900,000.
Lane Kiffin will be paid $2 million this year, putting the salaries for the 10 coaches at $5.325 million.
And that's not the end of it. Strength coach Mark Smith, whose salary is not in the pool for assistants, will earn $190,000.
Tennessee also appears to be breaking rules in spirit with the expected hiring of Mitch Browning, 52, as a graduate assistant. Browning, who got his start in 1980-81 as a part-time coach at North Carolina State under Monte Kiffin, most recently was Syracuse's offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. Browning, who reportedly had a multi-year contract with the Orange, will be drawing a paycheck from Syracuse.
Browning must first be accepted into a graduate program at Tennessee before he can be hired, which amounts to prostituting academia in the interest of football. Although Browning won't be paid by Tennessee, he is basically an 11th full-time coach, one over the NCAA limit.
Yes, it now pays to be an assistant, even on the front end of an economic downturn.