Over the weekend, Auburn attempted to hire Florida State defensive coordinator Charles Kelly to replace Will Muschamp, who left to become the head coach of South Carolina. The Rivals Auburn affiliate reported that Kelly had "politely rejected" Auburn's advances, believed to be in the neighborhood of $900K annually, which is a significant raise over Kelly's salary of $583K.
Kelly is in demand because his 2015 defense is the first to hold every opponent under 25 points since 2011 Alabama, and because he's an Auburn grad and an Alabama native, though distance is hardly an issue given how close Tallahassee is to his hometown. Kelly makes only $583K because he did not receive a big raise after his 2014 defense massively underperformed relative to its talent level.
Sources told Tomahawk Nation and some other outlets like 247Sports, Rivals that the Auburn Rivals story was legit and that Kelly indicated to Florida State staff that he wasn't going anywhere.
Now it appears that Auburn is willing to throw silly money around -- perhaps around $1.3M for three years (it paid Will Muschamp $1.6M annually). That would be more money in a three-year period than Kelly would have made in his entire coaching career, and a raise of more than 150 percent annually.
On the merits, Kelly does not seem to deserve the same amount of money earned by defensive coordinators like Will Muschamp, Jeremy Pruitt or Bud Foster -- all of whom have coached many elite defenses. Kelly has one year of excellent results in Tallahassee and one year of less than stellar defense. At Georgia Tech, he was limited at times but was believed to have done a good job.
But Auburn is in a unique situation in that it is now coming to terms with the realization that it must overpay in a major way to get coaches to come coach on Gus Malzahn's staff because Malzahn's staff might not be around all that long at Auburn after going 6-10 in the SEC over the last two seasons. Because of that uncertainty, sources indicate that Auburn has to throw around much more money and guarantee it for a number of years. The fear from Auburn is that if things continue to go south with Malzahn, it would then be stuck with having to pay $1-2.5M to buyout its defensive coordinator.
In its second attempt to get Charles Kelly, it looks like Auburn has had a change of heart and is willing to take the risk.
Today, Auburn 247 reported that "All signs point to Kelly as Auburn's next DC," which is good leverage when trying to extract a large raise out of Florida State.
The draw of making as much over a three-year span as one has in his entire career to date is alluring, but Florida State is not going to sit idly by. I was told weeks ago that Kelly was going to be in line for a substantial raise, either this year or the next.
Whether Florida State would pay Charles Kelly what Auburn would pay him is certainly up for debate, but FSU does offer very competitive salaries. Jimbo Fisher is the fifth-highest paid coach in the country, and his assistants make the seventh-most.
Florida State is clearly the better situation given the talent coming back, the existing knowledge of the players, and the job stability which could be very helpful if a coordinator had eventual head coach aspirations. Florida State's program is not operating from a position of desperation like Auburn appears to be, and if the word that Auburn is making such a lofty offer is true, Kelly will have to weigh the value of staying at Florida State with a raise against leaving for a higher paying, but uncertain future.