Forde-Yard Dash: Where ugly coaches get paid

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (tickets to the inevitable Hugh Freeze Hospital Bed Exhibit in the Liberty athletic hall of fame sold separately):

[More Dash: Fab freshmen, CFP picks | Gurus gone bad | 5 games we need]


Is your coach ugly enough to earn big and win big?

In the annals of higher education research, there haven’t been many studies like this one, from West Virginia University (31). The basic conclusion: Ugly college football coaches get paid more than attractive ones.

“It is rigorous science,” said the study’s co-author, Brad Humphreys, a professor of economics at WVU who has had more than 100 articles published. “Less attractive college football coaches make more money.”

Here’s what Humphreys set out to determine: Does the “Beauty Premium” concept that has been proven in other professions carry over to college football coaching? In other words, are attractive people paid more than their equally capable unattractive peers? Humphreys said in some occupations, the Beauty Premium runs at about 10 percent.

“I thought there would be a Beauty Premium just like there is for lawyers and teachers,” Humphreys said, but his research did not support that assumption. If anything, it refuted the assumption.

Here’s how Humphreys and his colleague, associate engineering professor Guodong Guo, did the research: They took the publicly available salaries of every FBS coach from 2014-16, then ran their photographs through an MIT database of generic photos of more than 10,000 people that were rated in terms of attractiveness. An algorithm corresponded the looks of the coaches with the ratings in the database, and out came the information.

Former Texas Tech Kliff Kingsbury was, unsurprisingly, highly rated for his attractiveness. Aggressive features, which are deemed unattractive, tend to be common in football coaches — and highly rewarded.

[Jim] Harbaugh (32) comes up as very aggressive,” Humphreys said. “What is the relationship between aggressive features and salary? In this study, the more aggressive you look, the more you earn.

“College football is an aggressive sport. There are probably people who think, ‘I want my football coach to be a hard guy, not a pretty boy.’”

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh argues a call during the second half of his team's game against Middle Tennessee on Saturday. (AP)
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh argues a call during the second half of his team's game against Middle Tennessee on Saturday. (AP)

Humphreys withheld the scoop The Dash most wanted: Who is the ugliest coach in America?

“I’ve been reluctant to release that information,” he said, though he did allow that Nick Saban (33) was “in the middle” of the attractiveness spectrum and Dabo Swinney (34) “was not in the bottom half.”

As for the home team: Humphreys’ research had current Mountaineers coach Neal Brown (35) “among the top quarter of attractive coaches.” Meanwhile, the man he replaced, Dana Holgorsen (36), was ranked “substantially less attractive.”

But the research was not tainted by bias in favor of the new coach and against the coach who left, the WVU release maintains. Humphreys is a football fan, but Guo — who ran the numbers — is not.

“To be honest,” Guo said, “I’m not familiar with those two people.”

Stat of the Week

Signs of life at Rutgers (37)? One statistic from the Scarlet Knights’ 48-21 rout of Massachusetts offers some hope. Led by quarterback McLane Carter, a Texas Tech transfer, Rutgers threw for 348 yards against the Minutemen. That’s the most in a single game for the Knights in five years. That’s progress. (Or the UMass defense is a real mess.)

Meanwhile, The Dash is happy to report that the subject of the first Stat of the Week of the season, Washington receiver Andre Baccellia, did indeed catch a touchdown pass in the victory over Eastern Washington. You may recall that Baccellia caught a TD in the first game of his freshman season, in 2016, and none of his subsequent 76 catches found the end zone. But midway through the first quarter of the opener of his senior season, Baccellia hooked up with Jacob Eason for a 50-yard score.

Coach who earned his comp car this week

Shawn Elliott (38), Georgia State. Not only did his Panthers pull off the stunner of the weekend, handily beating Tennessee, but the coach had a little postgame sass about him. Flush with the thrill of victory, he brought up the SEC’s grandiose motto.

“They say the SEC just means more,” Elliott said on the field in his postgame TV interview. “Today’s game meant more to us.”

The T-shirt didn’t take long to follow.

Coach who should take the bus to work

Jeremy Pruitt (39), Tennessee. The flip side of pulling off a stunning upset is being the team that was stunningly upset. Pruitt’s second team was supposed to take a big step forward from last year’s 5-7 mark, but the Volunteers were pushed around and beaten down to the point that they looked like they gave up in the final quarter and a half — at least defensively. Pruitt should feel fortunate that his boss is Philip Fulmer and not the late Frank Broyles, who as Arkansas athletic director once famously forced out coach Jack Crowe after a season-opening loss to The Citadel.

Point after

When hungry in the football bedrock city of Birmingham, Alabama, plan ahead and get a reservation at the eternally great Highlands Bar & Grill (40). It’s a little bit spendy, but it’s more than a little bit worth it. Get the marinated crab claws, the grits and the flatiron steak. Accompany it with a local Good People Brewing IPA. Thank The Dash later.

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