Last week there was a series of articles in USA Today, November 16 & 16, 2006 about coaching compensation in college football. This article in light of the massive cuts that have occurred in so called “non-revenue” sports in the last twenty five years this just made me think of the role big time football plays in higher education. It is to the point where gymnastics and wresting are almost dead and swimming and track & field are in critical condition. Before going on let me give you a little background. I am not a big fan of football because I have always felt that it was a budget buster. Without personalizing this too much I was a member of the football team at Fresno State College from 1964 until one game into my senor year, when I finally saw the light and quit. Most of what I learned was not to do. I was subjected to terrible coaching that relied on brutality and mental manipulation for “motivation.” The positive was that it made me determined to learn to be the best coach I could be. I knew that what I had experienced there was not the way to do it. I was fortunate to end up with a good education; despite the dummy class scheduling that was imposed upon us by football. After two years as an indifferent student, I began to take school seriously, which made me question even more my football experience. I graduated and moved on to coach.
In the subsequent 38 years I NEVER received anything from Fresno State requesting contributions to anything but athletics. Last week out of a clear blue I received a fund raising letter to solicit donations to help raise Fresno Sates academic standards. (This from the school that hired that distinguished alum, Jerry Tarkanian, to bring the basketball program back to prominence. His record at Long Beach, UNLV showed no record for academics. That was just something that interfered with basketball practice. The university president signed off on his hiring). This came the day before the USA Today article.
The point of all is this is to put the USA Today coaching compensation articles into context. One of the sidebars in the article was about Pat Hill, the current Fresno Sate coach. He makes $1,231,421which is significantly more than the president of the University that was soliciting the alumni for funds to help with academics. What is wrong with this picture? Fresno state has also dropped several sport programs in the last four years due to budget shortfalls; Pat Hill never stepped up to donate a dime to try to help save any of those programs. 25% of his salary would have easily saved one of the sports.
This is the rule not the exception at schools trying to break into the big time and the schools already there. Sport is supposed to be part of the educational process not outside and independent of it. If you read the article most of the football coaches make more than their college presidents and significantly more than professors entrusted with educating the students, which I thought was the main mission of the college or university. For every Joe Paterno has donated money back to the schools there are five who are ripping off their schools holding them hostage for more money. Many also receive bonus for graduating players, but isn’t that their job? I do not think the professors receive graduation bonuses! Here is an example of the type of bonus agreement some of the coaches have written into their contacts:
- Clean living: Central Florida's George O'Leary gets $50,000 every year there are no violations of the student code of conduct; no arrests, indictments or convictions of crimes; and no "neglect or willfull conduct" in violation of NCAA rules.
- Minority emphasis: Washington State's Bill Doba gets $10,000 each year that Cougars' minority player graduation rate is at least 5% higher than the grad rate for minority males in the school's overall student body.
The shoe companies and equipment companies are equally responsible for this excess. In many cases it is their money that is actually paying the majority of the coaches compensation package. Is it fair to ask then whom the coaches are accountable to, the shoe company or the university? These companies should be made to give two dollars to academics for every one dollar they give to sports. Sports should stand on their merits. You do not need eleven or twelve football coaches.
Where does the NCAA stand in all of this, they are certainly not without fault as they have stood back and let this spiral out of control. Could it be that these excesses help line their pockets? As you may be aware congress is looking into the tax-exempt status of the NCAA and they should. The NCAA exists solely for the major sports and to make money. Why haven’t they taken a stand as sports are cut? Stop hiding behind Title IX and look closely at the Saturday afternoon roman circus that is draining the system.
I realize this is an idealistic and emotional argument but lets think about the bigger picture and give more athletes an opportunity instead of the pampered few that are using the college game as preparation for a pro career. The Saturday afternoon gladiators do not represent what sport is about in my mind. When I watch Fresno State on television, as they were last night, I think about the other programs that were dropped and think this a system needs to be fixed.