Brian VanGorder Was 9th Highest Paid Assistant Coach in 2016?!?

Photo: © Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Photo: © Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

According to data released by USA Today, former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder was the 9th highest paid assistant coach in all of college football in 2016.  VanGorder was fired four games into the 2016 season with a 1-3 record while sporting the nation’s 103rd ranked defense.

According to the USA Today, VanGorder’s salary was reported as $1,106,156 on Notre Dame’s 2014 Tax Return.  Even as a private institution, VanGorder’s salary was available as one of the University’s highest paid employees.

Talk about a poor return on investment.

Money Shouldn’t Be An Issue for the Next Defensive Coordinator

The good news in this, however, is that money should not be an issue for Notre Dame in their search for a new defensive coordinator this off-season.  Of the eight assistants listed ahead of VanGorder, six of them are defensive coordinators.  Texas A&M’s John Chavis,  Clemson’s Brent Venables, LSU’s Dave Aranda, Louisville’s Todd Grantham, Baylor’s Phill Bennett, and Tennessee’s Bob Shoop all racked in more than BVG.

Good thing Notre Dame has already opened up their checkbook once for a defensive coordinator.

Assistant coach salaries are continuing to rise as well.  This report listed Dave Aranda’s salary as $1,315,000.  The LSU defensive coordinator received a reported raise to $1.800,000 to stay on Ed Orgeron’s new staff at LSU.  So Notre Dame fans should probably get the idea of Aranda even being a possibility out of their heads pretty quickly.

While Aranda is not a possibility, money shouldn’t deter the Irish from pursuing many – if any – other candidates.  A total of just 12 assistant coaches reeled in $1,000,000 or more according to USA Today.

The failed Brian VanGorder Era at Notre Dame

The VanGorder experiment was by any measure a disaster for Notre Dame and Brian Kelly.  Things started off well after five games in 2014 including the program’s only shutout of Michigan in history.  Since then, Notre Dame played some of the worst defense in the country.

A year ago, Notre Dame’s defense was passable but still suffered breakdowns at the worst times.   The most glaring examples was allowing Stanford to score a winning field goal after getting the ball with just 30 seconds on the clock.  This despite a roster that included perhaps the program’s greatest linebacker – Jaylon Smith – and other NFL talent in Sheldon Day, Keivarae Russell, and Romeo Okwara.  Jarron Jones, Isaac Rochell, and Cole Luke were on that defense as well and will be joining those players in the NFL this spring.

Even with a second season highlighted by defensive breakdowns and big plays, VanGorder was retained last offense.  The misuse of Smith alone could have warranted a dismissal.  Smith was without question one of those one in a generation type talents Notre Dame lands.  Smith was rarely unleashed to unleash havoc on opposing defenses, however, because he was always too busy cleaning up the messes VanGorder’s defensive schemes created.

Things Were Supposed to Be Different in 2016

The narrative last off-season was year three of the VanGorder defense was to going to be different.  The players now fully understood VanGorder’s complex defense that Max Redfield famously said a few years back was tougher to learn than Mandarin Chinese.

That never happened.  Notre Dame’s defense was run over by Texas in the season opener as the Longhorns shredded the 3-3-5 defense the Irish attempted to deploy.  Michigan State had the best performance of the season two weeks later against Notre Dame ripping off 36 straight points.  The only other teams the Spartans beat in 2016 were Furman and Rutgers.

The final straw for VanGorder, however, came in week four when 21 point underdog Duke beat the Irish 38-35.  Kelly defended his defensive coordinator immediately following the loss before dismissing him the next day.

Whoever Kelly selects to take over the defense has a huge task at hand.  Luckily for the Irish whoever that is should be paid handsomely to do it.

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  1. DeShone Kizer, Malik Zaire & Brandon Wimbush all have NFL caliber ability. BK played both Kizer & Zaire in the first half of the away game versus the Texas Longhorns. To me Malik Zaire appeared sluggish and inaccurate in the first half versus the Longhorn defense. His injury which I believe Virginia did to MZ intentionally was worse than ND fans and alum were led to beleive. A crippling injury.

    BK is stubborn as a mule!! To have three stud horses such as these three quarterbacks goes beyond fortunate. What does BK elect to employ as a offensive strategy?? To essentially use one. This has to be and is a huge disappointment for me personally.

    Brian VanGorder is a great DC and I believe will one day if given the opportunity be a good HC.

    1. If you know Zaire is still injured, I think you should do the right thing and inform the press. I’m sure UNC and Wisconsin would like to know. But as far as VanGorder, you’re not giving him enough credit. He’s a deadlock Hall of Famer, both college AND pro.

    2. Dayne Crist, Andrew Hendrix, Tommy Rees, Everett Golson, Malik Zaire, and Deshone Kizer have all started games at quarterback for Notre Dame under Brian Kelly’s watch. IMO every one of these guys regressed under Kelly’s system.

      1. D Kizer has not regressed. The Notre Dame defense is where the biggest chasm is not Adams, Kizer, Zaire, Folston, & the receivers are all high caliber athletes “who-have-not-regressed.” In my opinion.

      2. Is that why Kizer went from potential number one overall NFL Draft pick to falling completely out of the picture to the point where the NFL draft analysts are imploring him to stay in college?

        Blaming the defense would have had some merit in week 3, but if you followed ND football you would have noticed a clear improvement after BGV got canned. The defense was adequate enough to win each game other than USC. Kizer went 3 and out 5 times in the second half of the VT game and could have won 11 games this year. He failed to move the ball repeatedly during crunch time.

        Didn’t you just say BVG is a top notch DC and should be a head coach? Now you blame the entire year on him. Please get a grip.

  2. Here’s a suggestion.
    Find the OC from Michigan the night ND and BVGs D’ beat them 31-0, and don’t hire him.

    1. and please excuse me for adding this light to the darkness . . .

      Zaire says thank you to Notre Dame

      Dear Notre Dame students and staff,

      My life changed for the better the moment I stepped onto the University of Notre Dame’s beautiful campus. The one goal I had set in my mind to achieve was to become a better man, a Notre Dame man. After growing through many trials and triumphs, the thing I’ve learned most from my experience was that if you don’t believe in yourself first, then no one else will. I believed in becoming a better man and succeeding through any circumstance, and I can say that I’ve truly accomplished that. I often refer to the famous quote from the movie “Catch Me If You Can” that was well put by Frank Abagnale:

      “Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.”

      I’ve put my heart, soul and passion into the University, the football program, the South Bend community and the Irish community worldwide. I have the unbelievable honor to represent this University to the fullest as a student and soon-to-be alumni. Thank you to the amazing students and staff that I’ve met through the years for helping me grow into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I love the Irish and will always be an Irish alum no matter where I go! I look forward to keeping in touch. Let’s change the world!

      Go Irish!

      Malik Zaire

      Dec. 7

      Zaire is expected to compete for a starting quarterback job next year as a graduate transfer. He’s reportedly taken a visit to Wisconsin and plans to visit North Carolina as well, just two of several programs on the radar as Zaire looks to step in and win a starting Power 5 job.

      Nice heartfelt letter in today’s @NDSMCObserver:… Wherever he goes, I’ll be rooting for Malik from afar next season!

      — Josh Flynt (@jflyntnd518) December 8, 2016

  3. It’s sad that BK made the decision to keep him this year and it may cost him his job. I said all year that the defensive coordinator and the play of the defense is the reason the season went the way it went. Now he needs to find a better DC and fast. He also needs to put a defense on the field that can make a key stop in the fourth quarter. If he doesn’t ND will a new coach next year. The problem is that all the good coaches I have seen this year have been picked up. I am not a fan of picking Fleck because Western Michigan is not the place where you sharpen your skills to come to ND.

  4. Bring him back and pay him more. Why stop the stupidity now. And please get rid of Sanford. Bring back Chuckie Cheese Weis and make him the highest paid Dark Room guy.

  5. Yeah, I was shocked to see how much BVG was paid for his ” services.” I was one of those foolish enough to think a 3rd season under his system would be different (how many times do you hear it takes 3 to 4 years to install a new system). But it went from bad to worse. Texas, MSU and Duke all fielded bad teams this year that the Irish made look like NC contenders.

    They have to hit a home run with the next DC. I think BK’s future at ND will ride partially on how well the defense can do next year (there are a lot of things that BK needs to fix, but DC is near the top of the list). I just don’t have much confidence that will happen.

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