Skull Session: OSU's Assistants Got Paid, USC's Matt Barkley Remembers the Shoe in 2009 and the NCAA Tournament Will Net Columbus an Estimated $9.4 Million

By Chase Brown on March 17, 2023 at 5:00 am
Brian Hartline

March Madness. I love it.

It stinks Ohio State men's basketball isn't in the Big Dance this year, but there's nothing quite like 13th-seeded Furman defeating fourth-seeded Virginia or 15th-seeded Princeton knocking off No. 2-seeded Arizona. It's just beautiful.

Let's have a good Friday, shall we?

 MONEY, MONEY, MONEY... MONEY! Ryan Day, Gene Smith and the Ohio State athletic department supplied several coaches with raises this offseason, according to documents obtained by Eleven Warriors on Thursday. And "several" feels like an enormous understatement, as all 10 full-time assistants and four other staffers received a boost in compensation.

Ohio State's 2023 Assistant Coach Salaries
Coach Title 2022 Salary 2023 Salary Increase Contract End
PERRY ELIANO SAFETIES COACH $500,000 $515,000 $15,000 2024
PARKER FLEMING SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR $300,000 $500,000 $200,000 2025
COREY DENNIS QUARTERBACKS COACH $400,000 $412,000 $12,000 2024
KEENAN BAILEY TIGHT ENDS COACH $150,000 $400,000 $250,000 2025

Essentially, Day, Smith and Ohio State were like Oprah Winfrey in 2004, when the talk show host famously provided her entire studio audience with a free Pontiac G6 as she screamed, "You get a car!" nine times and capped it off with "Everybody gets a car!"

Brian Hartline... you get a raise! Justin Frye... you get a raise! Tim Walton... you... get a raise? Uhhhhhhh, I think I need to pause on my Oprah spree real quick. 

Hartline and Frye's salary bumps make perfect sense. The former was promoted to offensive coordinator in addition to coaching the wide receivers in 2023, while the latter added the run game coordinator title to his offensive line coach responsibilities. As for Walton, I am perplexed by his raise of $300,000, the second-largest increase of all coaches behind Hartline, after one season with the Buckeyes – a season in which the cornerbacks were one of the weakest links on the entire team.

To me, the only reasonable explanation is that Walton's NFL experience put him on the radar of a professional team, forcing Ohio State to increase his pay to keep him in Columbus. But that is, of course, my prognostication and not based on any actual reports of what went down between Walton, Day and Smith.

The other raise that confused me was the salary boost for special teams coordinator Parker Fleming, who received a $200,000 increase in base pay after the 2022 season. While I'm not a "Fire Parker Fleming" person, a take that seems common among the Twitter folk, I'm also not a staunch defender of his, and that is – at least primarily – to no fault of his own.

Simply put, I don't think Ohio State needs a designated special teams coach, as it feels like a responsibility another full-time assistant could handle. Perry Eliano, who coached both special teams and cornerbacks at Cincinnati, would be a candidate to take that on.

It's also hard to justify the Buckeyes' special teams mishaps – the botched fake punt against Michigan or Georgia, for example – when Fleming is explicitly tasked with ensuring they don't happen. Those mistakes aren't grounds to fire Fleming, but I don't think they warrant a $200,000 raise.

But I digress. It's time to step off my soap box.

Ohio State will now pay its 10 full-time assistants $9.323 million in 2023, approximately $153,000 more than Alabama will pay its ensemble of coaches. That means it's time for the Buckeyes to start seeing a return on their investment, preferably in the form of a national championship (or two, or three or four).

 "FINALLY, THAT PLACE WENT SILENT." Former USC quarterback Matt Barkley will never forget when he marched the No. 3 Trojans into Ohio Stadium and beat the No. 8 Buckeyes in 2009, but it's not for the reason you would think.

While Barkley will always think fondly about the time he led his team to a marquee victory over Ohio State in only his second-career start, it's actually the impression that Ohio Stadium left on the USC signal-caller that will stick with him forever, he told Keely Eure of The Victory Podcast this week.

"Being a recruit and watching games at (USC's Los Angeles Coliseum), I think i was just used to sold-out crowds, like loud environments. This is what football should be. And so I had this expectation like, 'It's going to be loud. Yeah, we know that. It's going to be hard there. They are a good team. We know that.' But I think because of the culture that coach Carroll had established where 'We're the best, we're practicing against the best every day,' we were ready for anything. I think that all helped immensely because when we got there, it is still one of the loudest environments I've ever been in. Picture you're at a concert and the speakers are right in front (of you) and your ears are ringing. It was louder than that it seemed like. If this were the huddle right here, you'd have to nearly read my lips to hear the play call. And this was even during timeouts, dude. During timeout calls, they were still standing the whole time, yelling as loud as they could. It was nuts.

That final drive, there was just something special where everything was clicking. Joe McKnight, rest in peace, had some unbelievable plays. Anthony McCoy had some big catches at tight end. And then, (Stefon Johnson) took that run outside and into the end zone. Finally, that place went silent, and it was glorious. It was beautiful. It was special.

I think it's cool that Barkley remembers the Shoe for its environment and how loud the Ohio State fans were for the entire game. Still, it's unfortunate that he also remembers silencing that same crowd as he and the Trojans orchestrated a long touchdown drive late in the fourth to defeat the Buckeyes on their turf.

But isn't that kind of the way the Shoe works?

When the Buckeyes are at their best and headed for a win inside an Ohio Stadium full of 105,000 fans, the crowd feels more like 1 million fans. But when the Buckeyes are at their worst and headed for a loss, the 105,000 fans feel more like zero. The only noise comes from the northeast corner of the Shoe, where the opponent's supporters make their home for a few hours before, during and after the game.

Barkley and USC accomplished the latter scenario 14 years ago, as have a few other teams since then: Michigan State in 2015, Oklahoma in 2017, Oregon in 2021 and – warning: this one will hurt – Michigan in 2022.

However, Ohio State often accomplishes the former scenario, blowing opponents out of the water behind an army of Buckeye fans inside the Shoe, namely Wisconsin in 2011, Michigan in 2012, Michigan in 2016, Penn State in 2017, Michigan in 2018 and Notre Dame in 2021. I'm sure there are others worthy of a namedrop, but those are the ones that come to my mind immediately.

Here's to Ohio State adding many more wins at the Shoe in the future and to many players remembering the environment of Ohio Stadium from those contests, hopefully after a loss instead of a win.

 HEY, THAT'S PRETTY COOL. Columbus will host men's and women's NCAA Tournament matchups at Value City Arena and Nationwide Arena this weekend, events that are expected to net the city $9.4 million, according to the Columbus Sports Commission.

"It’s a great chance for local fans to see great basketball and to introduce visitors to Columbus," Columbus Sports Commission executive director Linda Logan told The Columbus Dispatch on Thursday.

Michigan State, Purdue, USC and Marquette, among others, will compete at Nationwide Arena for the men's portion of the tournament. The commission reported that approximately $8.6 million of the $9.4 million estimate mentioned above is expected to come from fans attending those contests in the downtown area.

Ohio State women's basketball earned a No. 3 seed in the women's portion of the tournament, allowing them to host their first-round matchup with James Madison on Saturday at Value City Arena. Should the Buckeyes defeat the Dukes, they would advance to face the winner of sixth-seeded North Carolina and No. 11 St. John's on the same court on Monday. Those contests will make up the remainder of the commission's initial estimate.

Everything about this is a massive win for Columbus and for Ohio State. Not only can the city benefit from the millions of dollars worth of business that will come to Ohio's capital over the next few days, but it can also rally behind the Buckeyes' women's team, which is poised to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament after a runner-up finish to Caitlin Clark and Iowa at the Big Ten Tournament.

How far will Ohio State make it in the tournament? Well, it's March – literally all outcomes are on the table. But at least this is certain. The Buckeyes have at least one game on their home court this weekend at 1:30 pm. on Saturday. Make sure to watch.

 THIS AND THAT. It's time for the beloved "This and That" section of the Skull Session. Let's wrap up this Skully with some content that features a few of Ohio State's Olympic and club sports.

First, let's talk about women's hockey. On Friday, top-seeded Ohio State will face fifth-seeded Northeastern in Duluth, Minnesota, in one of two Frozen Four matchups. The Buckeyes will be led by All-Americans Sophie Jaques and Jenn Gardiner, among many other talented skaters, in the matchup.

Jaques is also a top-three finalist for the coveted Patty Kazmaier Award, presented to the best female college hockey player for the second consecutive year. Ohio State will likely have the best player in the matchup, providing the Buckeyes with a great chance to advance to their second straight NCAA championship during a contest that will be played on Sunday at 5 p.m.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "Phenomenal" by Eminem.

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