Even if Clark is going to recruiting rival UAB after just one wildly successful season as the head football coach at his alma mater, it’s still “thank you.”
Football Championship Subdivision member JSU gave Clark the college head-coaching opportunity that apparently led to his chance to coach a program that’s Football Bowl Subdivision, even if in name only.
Clark delivered with an 11-4 season, JSU’s first with double-digit victories since leaving Division II in 1992.
He delivered JSU’s first two playoff victories since leaving Division II in 1992. But for injuries to quarterback Eli Jenkins and running back DeMarcus James at Eastern Washington, it likely would have been the first three playoff victories.
Until Clark, JSU visions of its football program as capable of such were just that — visions, without FCS precedent to back them up. He delivered precedent.
It’s not just a matter of belief any more.
And while JSU fans are thanking Clark for results that turned “prove it” to “proved it,” they can also thank him for ushering in the era of first-world problems at JSU.
After 13 years with one coach who won more than he lost but never could get the Gamecocks over certain humps, JSU is learning the cost of getting over those humps without coaching transition. It’s more than $175,000 a year, which is what Clark made.
Welcome to the arms race, JSU.
To keep Clark from making the move to a struggling FBS program with sketchy-at-best support from its power structure, the cost apparently needed to be more in the neighborhood of $500,000.
For a JSU program that has made a stadium investment to trump a program that wouldn’t make such an investment, the cost needed to be more money for staff.
Clark found himself in a position to prove wrong those who criticized him early in his one year at JSU. He can manage the clock.
He has 22 years in the Alabama Retirement System. It takes 25 to retire with full benefits, and the pension rate is based on the three highest-paid years out of the last 10.
Clark is part of the JSU family and loves it, but he loves his family family more. His success at JSU earned him chance to make what’s speculated to be $500,000 a year in those final three years.
What would any of us do, and who can blame Clark for calling that timeout?
It shouldn’t be hard for Clark to say “thank you” to his alma mater. JSU gave him the chance to make so much happen in one year, for the JSU family and his family family.
It shouldn’t be hard for JSU fans to say “thank you.” Clark’s apparent career move is understandable, and his results at JSU turned hopes and dreams into justified expectations.
And if JSU can’t afford the cost of such expectations in dollars, then JSU can expect the cost in coaching transition.
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.