Archive for Saturday, March 9, 2013

Simons’ Saturday Column: College academic, athletic salaries are out of whack

March 9, 2013


Earlier this week, USA Today carried a feature with the headline “College ADs’ Pay on the Rise,” with a subhead, “Major-college athletics directors averaging more than $500,000.”

Almost at the same time, Kansas University officials announced they had hired an outstanding individual to become the new dean of the KU School of Engineering. This man currently is a professor and department chairman at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, where he leads the university’s engineering and computer science department. He was a program director for the National Science Foundation and holds a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He will be taking over the helm at the beginning of an $80 million expansion at the KU school.

His salary will be $280,000.

It is wrong to make comparisons between individuals, their talents, their value to a school, their earning power, their schooling or any other measurements, but the fact is, the primary mission of a university is to teach, inspire and motivate students to be contributing members of our society. Teachers and academic administrators on these campuses are left in the dust when it comes to financial compensation.

Those in athletics make the big bucks. Granted, they coach, recruit and baby sit outstanding athletes, who, in turn, help sell tickets to football and basketball games. And some of those who buy these tickets at high prices also become generous private contributors to the universities. Nevertheless, only a small percentage of the major universities show a profit in their athletic operations.

In the USA Today listing of AD salaries, KU Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger is listed with a salary of $450,000 with the opportunity of a $50,000 bonus. Kansas State Athletic Director John Currie is listed with a salary of $537,500 with the possibility of earning a maximum of $247,500 in bonuses.

This is sure to trigger much debate within the KU Athletics family, although it should be pointed out that in recent years, Kansas State has a better record in various “all sports” compilations than KU.

It is known the difference between what the KSU AD was making when the KU AD was hired was a sore point, and the current listing is likely to result in an announcement that the Kansas AD has been given a raise to at least match what is being paid to the AD in Manhattan.

This “arms race” or “keeping up with the Joneses” is what has been going on within the AD fraternity for some years, but was kicked into high gear with the Lew Perkins salary and bonus situation at KU. This lit the fire throughout the country in terms of AD salaries.

Salaries of most coaches, assistants and ADs dwarf those of faculty members at the same schools.

There may be a few distinguished professors at KU who, with their salaries and other earnings from outside sources, may touch some of the athletic salaries — but not many.

Some deans in schools such as law, medicine, business and engineering earn substantially more than deans of other schools, but few match or exceed the salaries of coaches, ADs and assistant coaches.

When is this bubble going to break? And what may cause the bubble to break?

Unfortunately, regents and curators at these schools duck the responsibility. They are quick to say they have confidence that the chancellors and presidents under their supervision have things under control. So the regents and curators pass it off to the chancellors, who, unfortunately, do little if anything, claiming it is up to officials in the NCAA or some other body to address the issue. Chancellors acknowledge they are uncomfortable with the situation, but they, too, want to field winning teams.

One knowledgeable individual suggests it may be the students who eventually bring some reason to the escalating salaries in college athletics and spending on bigger and better athletic plants on campuses throughout the country. Consider the additional debt KU will be taking on to make major improvements at Memorial Stadium.

Even with the huge TV deals, athletic departments at many schools still are likely to face serious financial challenges and the need to raise ticket prices to help reduce their deficits. How will students react when they are faced with substantially increased prices for their tickets? As it is, most KU faculty members already have been priced out of decent seat locations at KU basketball games and, to a lesser degree, at football games. Most other sports at KU are financial losers, and ticket sales don’t make much difference.

College sports are great entertainment and, in today’s society, the public seems conditioned to pay whatever the freight may call for in entertainment.

Nevertheless, will there come a time when the public — students, faculty, alumni or fans of a particular school or sport — eventually say “no” to higher prices? Or is it a case of the public being willing to pay as long as their team is a “winner”? And, to be a consistent winner, does this require higher and higher salaries for coaches and ADs and fancier stadiums and arenas?

It’s a never-ending, costly circle, and the faculty is left in the dust.


arch007bak 5 years, 2 months ago

Don't you just love it when a source is quoted as a "knowledgeable individual" but said source is never named? Kind of like when CNN, MSNBC and FOX talk about "some are saying..."

Don Whiteley 5 years, 2 months ago

This article is dead on target. Your jaw has to drop when billionaires like Boone Pickens gives $90 million to the OSU football program, and not a cent to its educational endeavors. Yet he is only representative of this growing problem. Major universities have become only the grooming grounds for future professional athletes, and many of those athletes even question the logic: "Why should I attend classes? I didn't come here to go to school; I came here to play basketball". And who pays the price? Taxpayers and students. KU is right in the center of this debate and it's caused me to lose all interest in KU sports, just as it has with all collegiate sports. Sports was introduced into colleges as a way of rounding a student's education, which I 100% support. But when schools are offering full scholoarships to gifted athletes who also happen to be academic zeros, regular students have only the smallest of chances of making their school's team. If we want to provide a training ground for pro athletes, let's take it off-campus, create viable farm leagues, and re-focus our schools back onto their primary purpose of providing an education.

parrothead8 5 years, 2 months ago

Boone Pickens gave $100 million to Oklahoma State solely for academic purposes in 2008. Be more knowledgable before you bad-mouth the guy.

Jock Navels 5 years, 2 months ago

all collegiate sports are not $$$. Go watch Baker or Ottawa.

vuduchyld 5 years, 2 months ago

vuduchyld's Saturday column: Dog bites man

bballwizard 5 years, 2 months ago

Fantastic read. One of the reasons we are declining as a society is we value athletics over education thus you have a bunch of unskilled uneducated young people that cant find jobs. We love sports in our family but we make school the first priority. You have to have a balance and right now we dont.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 2 months ago

While I appreciate Mr. Simons' thoughts and concerns about this issue, I am left to wonder if he has ever heard of free market capitalism.

College athletics (men's basketball and football, really) is all about money. The money flowing through college athletics in terms of TV contracts and athletic gear contracts is astounding (again, I am really talking about men's basketball and football).

As long as these large sums of money are involved, free market principles will prevail, leading to salary and facilities arms races as described. I am really surprised that Mr. Simons does not appreciate this basic fact of capitalism. This is how it works.

Left out of this free market money glut are the players themselves, who benefit very little from the money that they bring to universities.

Maybe the best way to start taming this runaway arms race is to start compensating the people who provide the product, the players. A scholarship to KU is not what I am referring to, which is of very little use to most players. Pay them salaries or stipends like the coaches and assistants.

elliottaw 5 years, 2 months ago

These programs are losing money hand over fist so your argument doesn't really make sense.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 2 months ago

Not all lose money, and those that do generally lose money supporting "non-revenue" sports.

Thus, while the universities might break even or lose money, the men's basketball and football programs support other sports.

Also, most venture capitalist investments don't make money, but there is always that chance that one will pay off.

These factors are also part of free market capitalism.

elliottaw 5 years, 2 months ago

But you need moral and ethical people for capitalism to work, you will not find those people in "big time" college sports. 19 football programs finished in the black the remaining 100+ programs finished in the red. Basketball is a little more profitable with about a 50/50 split. It takes years for these numbers to come across but this has been the trend fr the last few decades.

George_Braziller 5 years, 2 months ago

They may support other sports, but none of the money supports the University. I rarely agree with Dolph's editorials but I do on this issue.

Stop_the_Madness 5 years, 2 months ago

We need to get this mess under control. Athletes and those who manage them are overcompensated. It's just a game played for entertainment and there is no long term value.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 2 months ago

Free Market eh? Do tax exemptions represent Free Market? Hardly that is government assistance.

Little do some know butttttttt billions of $$$$$$ in tax subsidies flow into professional sports teams cookie jars.... more Free Market? Hardly that is government assistance.

Taxpayer owned stadiums represent Free Market? Hardly that is more government assistance.

Athletics is more of a Free Ride than Free Market. Let's get real.

Then again athletes need big pay because at the end of their college and/or professional careers is a body that is in pain and may require pain killers till death do they part. Walking can become a chore. Some after high school have serious joint problems. Brain concussions are not real healthy.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 2 months ago

Mr Simon's is on to something that others have been noting for some time so hats off to Mr Simons.

Donations ........ What if scholarship donations matched athletic donations? Holy cow a lot of students would not need to borrow money which would sweeten USA economics in a big way.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 2 months ago

Movies are entertainment. Professional sports are entertainment.

Americans have proven again and again that they will spend huge amounts of money on entertainment, thus enriching actors, directors, musicians, athletes, etc. to a level that makes no sense when considered rationally.

Whenever one sees someone compensated to a level that seems out of whack, it is generally because of the free market arms race as described by Mr. Simons. Actors, musicians, athletes, and corporate executives.

repaste 5 years, 2 months ago

Why are athletic donations tax deductible?

oldvet 5 years, 2 months ago

Because your donation goes to support scholarships and programs for the student-athletes, much the same as your donation to the endowment funds provides support for students and faculty.

Nikonman 5 years, 2 months ago

I agree that ADs and coachs are overpaid, but $280,000 should be more than adequate for what he does. When it comes to the status of the players, there is very little difference between the Division I players and NBA players. BB players get everything they need and assistance in school. I don't remember the exact amount, but I recently read that universities spend about $130,000 per student athlete compared to about $30,000 per non-athletic student. If the student athletes had to pay for what they receive in terms of benefits, they would have to have an income of over $100,000. And the benefits are tax free. Probably the only difference is that they don't get to party openly and have some discipline imposed on them by the coaching staff( so they can win).

Paul R Getto 5 years, 2 months ago

I thought the editor believed in free enterprise? The third chimp likes games. Been that way for thousands of years.

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