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Are You $erious?

As I sleepily headed to the kitchen for some breakfast, Jean’s voice from an adjacent room asked, “Do we have any batteries for the TV remote? I think you wore them out yesterday.”

Guilty as charged.

On that ‘Small Business Saturday,’ we had patronized a few local shops before heading home just in time to catch the Ohio State/Michigan game on the tube. Shamelessly, it wasn’t until eleven hours later, when I headed for bed, that the remote received a respite from my hand as I spent an enjoyable time taking in the many rivalry games being played on that day.

The afternoon and evening action was mesmerizing, and the significance of each game’s outcome made for high drama and tension. Michigan ended years of frustration (not to mention coach Jim Harbaugh’s 0-5 record against his rival) by knocking off Ohio State; Alabama finally awakening after 3 1/2 quarters of listless play to edge Auburn in four overtimes; Oklahoma State ended six years of frustration and destroyed Oklahoma’s national title hopes; and Minnesota axed Wisconsin’s Big Ten title hopes — all produced exciting moments.

Along the way, some colorful trophies were claimed; Oklahoma State won the Bedlam Bowl, Minnesota the Paul Bunyan Axe, Ole Miss the Golden Egg by beating Mississippi State, and Washington State the Apple Cup with their win over Washington. Oh yes, Michigan State won another trophy awarded in a snowy East Lansing, Michigan, the Land-Grant Trophy as theyw humbled Penn State 30-27.

However, Altoona Mirror sportswriter Neil Rudel coined a much better suggestion for the game, calling it “the Extension Bowl” and naming sports agent Jimmy Sexton, its most valuable player. Unless you’ve been ‘Rip Van Winkleing it’ or have no interest in college football, most fans would agree that is almost the perfect moniker.

Jimmy Sexton has been a Sports Agent since 1984, when he signed his first client, NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White. He is one of the few agents who have represented both players and coaches. He represents current NFL stars Derrick Henry, Julio Jones, Daniel Jones, and Ndamukong Suh, among others. He also represents 11 of the 14 SEC head football coaches and 7 NFL head coaches. In 2020 he took in $31 million in sports commission earnings.

This year he added two more coaches to his stable; Penn State’s James Franklin and Michigan State’s second-year coach Mel Tucker. In doing so, he made both men very rich. A few days after Franklin secured a 10-year, $75 million deal, Michigan State went even more loony-tunes over Tucker, making him the highest-paid coach in college football with a 10-year, $95 million reward.

In Rudel’s assessment, “Whether any college coach not named Saban is worth that kind of money won’t be fully determined for another half-decade, but this much is safe, Franklin’s track record is way better than Tucker’s. Tucker’s three-year record as a head coach is 17-14. He’s won nothing other than the joy he produced for Spartan fans with his victory over arch-rival Michigan this year. In Franklin’s 11-year coaching career, he’s won a Big Ten title, two New Year’s Six bowls, and has had three 11-win seasons.”

If you’ve ever listened to basketball commentator Dick Vitale, you’ve heard one of his signature calls, “Are you serious?” That very same question needs to be asked to those controlling the purse strings at those Land-Grant institutions in Happy Valley and East Lansing.

For the record, heading into the 2021 college football season, these were the top money-earning coaches per season: 1) Nick Saban, Alabama, 9.1 million (7 national titles, the most in college football history; 2) Ed Orgeron, LSU, 8.7 million (1 national title) let go by the school at the conclusion of the season; 3) Dabo Sweeney, Clemson, 8.3 million (2 national titles); 4) Jim Harbaugh, Michigan, 7.8 million; 5) Dan Mullen, Florida, 7.6 million (fired by Florida this year); 6) Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M, 7.5 million (defeated Alabama earlier this season); Kirby Smart, Georgia, 6.8 million (has been ranked number one throughout the season); and Ryan Day, Ohio State, 6.5 million (the loss to Michigan was his first loss to a Big Ten team in his career.

With their new deals, Tucker (9.5 million) is now the college game’s highest-paid coach, and Franklin (7.5 million, with Orgeron and Mullen now out of the picture) has cracked the top five. Really, are you serious?

In addition to his base salary, Franklin would receive $800,000 (should the Lions ever win a national title), $350,000 for a Big Ten title, and $150,000 for being named national coach of the year. He also receives an annual $1 million life insurance loan and 55 hours of private plane usage each year.

Obviously, Penn State likes Franklin and the coach’s name being linked to potential jobs at LSU and USC upped the ante for his services.

“Penn State is very happy to offer this extension to Coach Franklin, who has created an environment in which our student-athletes can be successful on the field, as well as leaders in our community and beyond,” PSU President Eric Barron stated. “We look forward to his sustained success, his pursuit of excellence, and his remaining an integral part of Penn State football and our university.”

A few years ago, Franklin stated his desire for Penn State to become an “elite” football program. “Elite” programs don’t post 11-10 records the past two years. “Elite” programs don’t go 7-5 and lose to the best teams on their schedule (Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State, not even mentioning the 9-overtime debacle to Illinois).

James Franklin may be a first-class individual, but the only thing “elite” about his current program is its coach’s salary.