Kirk Ferentz: If we don't rein in support staffs, it's not good for the game

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Wednesday December 21, 2016

The NCAA limits the strength and conditioning staff to five coaches, but there’s no limit on support staff, and Kirk Ferentz wants to see that change.

Support staffs have exploded over the last five years, with analysts, quality control assistants, personnel staffers, consultants and more. Last year’s national title game included more than $3 million in support staff between Alabama and Clemson. Ferentz joined SiriusXM College Sports Nation today and was asked about the state of college football. He brought up staffing.

“We had some issues in strength and conditioning seven or eight years ago, and they passed a rule where you can have X amount of people in the weight room, and they have to be certified and have to be qualified,” Ferentz said. “That’s what we have now, so it’s an even playing field across the landscape. It wasn’t at that point, and they reined it in.

I see the same thing happening with support staffs, analysts, consultants. That’s become a big issue in college football.”

There are two sides to the issue. On one side, it creates more opportunities for coaches, which is something Nick Saban always brings up. Saban has used his support staff as a head coaching rehab stop for guys like Lane Kiffin, Mike Locksley and Steve Sarkisian, but it also provides more opportunities for young guys who can’t be a GA or want to stay working in the profession. Tom Herman wants to increases Texas’ support staff.

On the other side, it’s the only part of staffing that isn’t limited. FBS schools get nine full-time assistants, four GA’s and five strength coaches. A support staff is a boost for recruiting, film breakdown and other non-coaching duties, but it's costly. Even in a Power 5 job like Iowa, Ferentz says it creates a big divide. Other coaches like Paul Johnson, Pat Narduzzi and Steve Addazio have said the same.

“Not to sound like a prude or whatever, but I think if we don’t rein that in — anything that accentuates the haves and makes have-nots, I’m not sure it’s good for the game itself,” Ferentz said. “I’ve been in the Big Ten 27 years. One of the things that’s important in our league is that we revenue share. We don’t have the Yankees in our league where you can go out and buy a team. I think that gives everybody a chance to compete. If you look at Rose Bowl participation since 1980, it’s reflective of that.

“I worry about that a little. I think we have to look at it hard. I don’t know what the magic number is, but I think at some point we have to agree on what that number is and how many people can work in a football building, how many can coach. There are gray areas that need to be addressed. If not, I don’t think it’s healthy for the game. It’s going to be healthy for some people, but I’m not sure for the game long-run. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be coaching, but looking down the road, that’s something I see could be problematic.”

Ferentz has also been against satellite camps, despite the fact many Big Ten coaches were in favor of them. A limit on those is expected to come in 2017. There also could be the addition of a 10th full-time assistant coach, but there’s no sign yet of slowing down support staffs.

“I think it’s the greatest game there is. I worry about it,” Ferentz said. “I think we’re getting ready to address the recruiting things going on right now. I kid our basketball coach. They must have better lobbyists than we do. They seem to get things done faster, and their rules reflect the world they live in. We’re probably 10 years behind some rules right now.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to