COLUMBUS — One of my favorite toys on the internet is the inflation calculator on the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis web site.
You type in a dollar amount and a year, say $10,000 in 1970, then type in the year you have chosen and it tells you what that dollar amount would be worth if it had gone up at the same rate as inflation.
Needless to say, the inflation calculator got a good workout when the annual list of college football coaches’ salaries was released earlier this week.
Also needless to say, coaches salaries have gone up much faster than if they were indexed to the rate of inflation.
No one should be surprised about that because there is much more money in college football than there was 10, 20, 30 or 40 years.
Seeing Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh ($9,004,000), Alabama’s Nick Saban ($6,939,395), Ohio State’s Urban Meyer ($6,003,000), Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ($5,550,000) and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher ($5,250,000) at the top of the list is not a shocker.
If there is a surprise in the salaries, it is that they appear to be one area where a rising tide really does lift all boats.
When Meyer left Bowling Green to become Utah’s head coach after the 2002 season, he had a $125,000 base salary as the Falcons’ head coach.
First-year BG coach Mike Jinks has a base salary of $410,000 this year, which is the No. 114 FBS coach’s salary. If the Bowling Green coach’s salary had risen only as much as inflation, he would be earning $166,439 this year.
When Ohio University signed Frank Solich in 2005, it paid him $240,000. This year he will earn $572,715. The inflation pegged salary for him would be $294,361.
When the late Terry Hoeppner left Miami to become Indiana’s coach in 2005, he was earning around $130,000. Current coach Chuck Martin makes $472,300 for considerably fewer wins than Hoeppner produced. If that salary had risen at the rate of inflation, it would be $164,813.
Part of Woody Hayes’ legend is that he never cared a lot about money. His biggest salary at Ohio State reportedly was $43,000 in his final season in 1978. That would be $157,855 in 2016 dollars.
Deflation, rather than inflation, might be on the minds of Ohio State fans going into today’s game against Northwestern at Ohio Stadium, though.
Last Saturday night’s 24-21 loss at Penn State, in which OSU let a 14-point lead slip away in the fourth quarter, certainly took the air out of the idea that there weren’t any dangerous games ahead before the Michigan game on Nov. 26.
Traditionally, a game against Northwestern has been almost a sure thing. The Wildcats haven’t won in Columbus since 1971 and Ohio State has won 29 of the last 30 games against them.
While No. 6 Ohio State (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten) has struggled offensively and at times on defense in the last three games, last Saturday night was the only time those things caught up with the Buckeyes.
Northwestern (4-3, 3-1 Big Ten) did not play well early in the season when it lost to Western Michigan and Illinois State in its first two games. But since then it has won three of four games with its only loss in that stretch coming against No. 7 Nebraska.
The Wildcats have some offensive talent, led by running back Justin Jackson, who looks like he is headed for his third consecutive 1,000-yard season, quarterback Clayton Thorson and the Big Ten’s leading receiver Austin Carr.
Defensively, the leaders are linebacker Anthony Walker Jr., who was first team All-Big Ten last season, defensive end Ifaedi Odenigbo (a Big Ten-leading 8 sacks) and safety Godwin Igwebuike.
Ohio State has some questions to answer after last week’s implosion.
Will the offense finish off drives, as it was unable to at Penn State, when its last five possessions ended with two punts, a blocked punt, a blocked field goal and a sack? Will the offensive line protect quarterback J.T. Barrett better? Will the receivers finally get some separation from opposing defensive backs?
Will the defense avoid giving up big plays at inopportune times? And will the special teams recover from their disastrous performance last week?
There is also one more question for the Buckeyes. Can they get a touchdown on their first possession? In the first seven games of the year, OSU has been held scoreless six times and kicked a field goal the other time on its opening drive.
Ohio State should bounce back and answer enough of those questions to win today.
The prediction: Ohio State 35, Northwestern 17.