I switched on the radio the other day and an athlete — who wasn't identified before the interview ended — was talking about career longevity. He reminded listeners that even though athletes make a lot of money, their careers are short.

While that is generally true, so is this: Their careers don't need to be long. The NBA's minimum salary for the upcoming year is $427,000. It takes the average Utah wage-earner 15 years to earn that much.

To put it another way, if a person survives in the NBA for two or three seasons, he'll make more than the average Utahn will make in an entire career. That doesn't take into account endorsement deals, camps, or that athletes and high-profile coaches are often hired in high-paying jobs after they retire.

All because they were in the show.

A textbook case of landing on his feet after getting his legs cut out from under him is former BYU football coach Gary Crowton. What's happened to him since leaving?

He's made a pile of money, that's what.

Don't cry for him, Argentina — or Provo, either. His new job as offensive coordinator at Louisiana State reportedly pays $400,000 a year. In Louisiana, and a lot of other places, that makes him a rich man.

How Crowton landed the job is pretty easy to explain: resume and connections. Despite failing to get Oregon's offense untracked during his two years there, and rumors that he was chased out of Eugene, and despite his getting fired at BYU, he has landed at one of the best programs in college football.

Crowton was paid for two years after being fired in Provo, which has been estimated at around $500,000. At the same time, he was being paid by Oregon, which shelled out $150,000 a year, plus $60,000 in supplemental income, for two years. So since being fired, he's made approximately $920,000 and is now working at a job that pays $400,000 annually.

Who knew unemployment could turn out so profitable?

Crowton isn't the only coach to turn failure into success. Jim Fassel was fired as Utah's football coach in 1989 after compiling a 25-33 record. But he was soon back in the saddle, first as a highly paid NFL assistant, then as head coach of the New York Giants, where he led them to a Super Bowl appearance.

That's the thing about coaching — getting fired isn't a negative, it's a rite of passage. Fassel used to say there are only two types of coaches: those that have been fired and those waiting to be fired.

That's not necessarily bad news.

Rick Majerus quit as Utah's basketball coach when rumors were flying that athletic director Chris Hill was ready to make a move. But Majerus left for "health reasons" and went immediately into a job at ESPN, where he was believed to be earning over $1 million annually for a part-time job. Last spring, St. Louis University hired him as basketball coach — another job that pays more than $1 million annually.

As former BYU football coach LaVell Edwards — who never had a written contract — said recently, "One or two jobs in the right places nowadays and you're set."

One of the strangest statements of all time was when Urban Meyer left Utah for Florida, telling reporters he was happy with his 7-year, $14 million contract because it guaranteed that he could send his kids to any college they desire. Really? At Utah he was making $500,000 a year and was offered nearly twice that much to stay.

How many people making $500,000 annually can't afford to send their kid to ANY college?

Coaching and playing may bring pressures, but meeting expenses isn't one of them. As Edwards said, one stop at the right place and you're on the path to a secure financial future.

You'll even be earning enough that people can stop feeling sorry about you being fired.


E-mail: rock@desnews.com