News stories earlier this week told of University of Texas officials increasing the salary of their football coach, Mack Brown, from $3 million a year to at least $5 million. Also, Brown will get an additional $450,000 as a bonus if his team beats Alabama in the Jan. 7 national championship game in Pasadena, Calif.
This is insane to begin with, but particularly so at a time when most universities are facing severe fiscal restraints.
Also, this is sure to activate the “domino effect” among the big-time, big-money, big-ego football coaches at other major universities who will make it clear that if Brown is getting a $2 million raise, they also should be in line for hefty increases.
It’s like throwing a rock into a small pond and watching the resulting waves touch all the surrounding banks.
Throughout the nation, and certainly in Kansas, state legislators, boards of regents or curators, chancellors and presidents all are immersed in what to do about the current dire economic situation.
Faculty members are being furloughed, and academic programs are being cut back or eliminated. Parents and students are told tuition costs are likely to increase. With cutbacks in academic programs, there is the possibility students will be required to spend an extra semester or year in school to obtain the credit hours they need for a degree. Crumbling buildings do not get repairs, and every possible measure is studied to see how to run the university with less money while maintaining its academic excellence.
And yet, athletic directors think nothing of awarding multimillion-dollar salaries while those in the schools’ academic positions are being asked to sacrifice and get by with less.
Those defending the insane salaries being paid to coaches, assistant coaches and athletic directors, almost in unison, are quick to say, “We are independent; we use private money, not state money.”
Any way you cut it, the athletic program at Texas or Kansas is part of the university. They do receive some state money, but a great deal of their funding comes from private contributors.
Nevertheless, they are looked to as a part of the university. Private money donated to the athletic programs goes through endowment associations, which allows donors to count a good share of their gifts as tax-deductible.
At this time, KU Athletic Director Lew Perkins is looking for a new football coach. Various observers have differing ideas of who might be Perkins’ favorite candidate, but most individuals commenting on the search point out “money” or “salary” demands should not be an issue because Perkins is sure to offer a package that is more than competitive. “He has the money to spend,” they say.
KU now has earned the reputation of being one of the top big-time spenders with dollars flowing to coaching salaries, new buildings, renovations and now a possible $34 million “Gridiron Club” for Memorial Stadium. Where will it stop if it is allowed to continue even when faculty members are faced with frozen salaries, cutbacks in various enrichment programs and the elimination of classes?
Consider the pressure on university chancellors and presidents in these severe economic times when their coaches are getting bigger and better salaries with many tacked-on bonuses and, at the same time, their faculty members are being told the school cannot afford to award salary increases.
Something is out of whack. There is a terrible imbalance of priorities.
KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little is in the hot seat, perhaps unfairly in that she just recently moved into the chancellor’s office and had nothing to do with the growth and spending in her athletic department. Nevertheless, KU’s athletic director does work for and report to her even though some want to suggest the athletic department is independent of the university as it scouts the country trying to find and lure a top-flight football coach.
Salary, fringe benefits, lengthy contracts with bonuses for various special levels of achievement, generous payoffs if the coach is terminated, several cars for the coach and his wife, club memberships, extra tickets to the football games and maybe for KU basketball games and travel goodies all are a part of the package.
What kind of salary will KU offer its new football coach? Will the new coach top the $2.3 million former coach Mark Mangino received? If so, how can this be justified when the school is facing such severe fiscal restraints?
Gray-Little has a chance to make a loud statement about what is important at the university, her priorities. Does she say enough is enough in this arms race among the nation’s athletic departments, or does she give her athletic director free rein to offer whatever is necessary to hire a good coach?
What she does is sure to send a signal not only throughout the Big 12 Conference but also throughout the country. The Texas decision to give its coach a $2 million increase sent a very loud message throughout the Big 12, and it certainly was heard by all of the other coaches.
The eyes of many chancellors and presidents will be on Gray-Little to see how she deals with runaway spending and excesses in athletics. Will she show restraint, or will KU, to keep up with the Joneses, join the parade of athletic big spenders?
It is out of control, but who is willing to stand up and bring reason and balance to this obscene climate where dollars and egos call the shots? Can one person make a difference? Is it worth a try?
Is there any chance KU might be able to set an example for the rest of the conference — or nation?
Once more, the current obsession with money and spending by athletic officials is obscene! What are the values of this country?