Thursday, December 6, 2007

We're Number One -
In a Football Related Matter

Does raising funds for football help or hurt academic fundraising?

Are athletic department funding problems due to "those darn women?"

We've heard administrators and coaches at BigU make some strange claims related to the above questions.

Jay Weiner over at Minnpost lets the hot air out of a couple of balloons:

Go, Gophers! Football team (alas!) finished No. 1 in at least one postseason poll

We're Number One! We're Number One!

USA Today, which used to be criticized for its short stories, delivered its second annual survey of college football coaches' salaries Wednesday, and it's a marvelously disturbing piece of important sports journalism.

Especially in its comprehensive Web-based presentation of college coaches' pay, a reader/user can peruse rankings by conference, by salary, by just about everything, including ... and here's where we're Numero Unocost per victory.

Gophers Nation garnered one victory this past season. New coach Tim Brewster pocketed $1 million: $400,000 in base pay, $400,000 for media and public relations work, and $200,000 for his pension.

That one victory — over mid-major Miami of Ohio — means that Minnesota's lone "W'' was the most expensive victory in college football. It cost a cool mil to pocket one win.

Worse yet, Miami's coach, Shane Montgomery, made "only" $144,225, 85 percent less than Brewster, and the lowest reported salary in Division I football.

The market and those women

I'll also let you ponder why big-time college football coaches are paid more than college presidents and physics professors and, surely, arts profs, and know that the answer is: "That's what the market will bear." True, of course, but clearly a reflection of a twisted value in capitalism. Fact is, a very small group of college football programs actually "turn a profit," after paying out scholarships, paying debt service on facilities and sharing their TV money with their conference partners.

I'll let you kick around, too, all the misdirected anger from anti-Title IX vigilantes who blast women for getting a boathouse for their rowing team or a right-sized ice rink for their hockey team and, then, go on to blame women's sports costs for the demise of men's gymnastics or wrestling or golf or track and field on many campuses.

Hey, guys, it's not the women who are taking from you. It's the bloated football budgets, driven by a facilities arms race and absurd salaries and huge staffs. The Gophers football program has a dozen assistant coaches and administrators pulling down between $85,000 and $330,000 a year, at an average of $163,000 per staffer — or more than, say, the director of university's journalism school or the chairperson of its history department.

Sports takes from academics

But, this Journal of Sports Management study suggests the community building is not the fundraising bonanza that cash-squeezed athletic directors and pompom-waving presidents claim King Football to be.

Brad Wolverton, the Chronicle's athletics expert, writing of that journal study, reports: "... Sports fund-raising success has come at a cost: While donations to the country's 119 largest athletics departments have risen significantly in recent years, overall giving to those colleges has stayed relatively flat ... Among the surveyed institutions, athletics departments brought in an increasing share of the colleges' overall donations. In 1998 athletics gifts accounted for 14.7 percent of all contributions. By 2003 sports donations had reached 26 percent."

Wolverton continues: "The shift has frayed relations among fundraisers soliciting the same donors and has led to broader concerns about the growing importance of sports as overall funding for colleges has stagnated."


There has long been tension between academia and athletics on campuses. Minnesota is no different. The construction of a new $288.5 million on-campus football stadium, the hiring of a new football coach at $1 million per year — and the $3.6 million buyout of fired Glen Mason's contract — the hiring of a new men's basketball coach, Tubby Smith, at nearly $2 million per season — and the $1.3 million buyout of Dan Monson's contract — raise the stakes.

Sports hoopla creates emotion. But it's costly. It hands disproportionate power to coaches. And, over time, it just might be luring donors away from the core mission of universities.

Think about that next time you stand up and cheer for Gopher Nation.


Addendum (12-8):

Others have picked up on the amusing question of pay for performance. A noted sports enthusiast has posted on this topic on MoneyLaw.
Mr. B. has also posted about it with respect to university presidents.

We both seem to agree that there are valuable lessons to be learned by academic adminstrators from the sports field. As to the intrinsic or entertainment value of sports, I'm not so sure. De gustibus.


momo said...

Yup. I have watched one sports facilty after another be erected across the street from where I work in the last 19 years. During that time, I have had to send at least one student to the emergency room with heat exhaustion during a summer session class because there was inadequate air conditioning in our classroom. I have dutifully sent an impassioned and eloquent letter to the Governor begging for the relative pittance it will take to remodel the building where I work so that it will have adequate temperature control and wiring, and classrooms that are at least as good as those at your average suburban high school. This is after having spent the last 18 months trying to teach in said building during the noise and dust of the construction necessary to keep the external brickwork from falling off. I have no illusions that rehabbing the interior of our building will be any more of a priority in this year's budget than it has been in since I arrived here 19 years ago, when I was first told our building was in the budget request.

Male fan of Title IX said...

Men fall into three categories:

1. Those who are oblivious to Title IX.

2. Those "anti-Title IX vigilantes who blast women for getting a boathouse for their rowing team or a right-sized ice rink for their hockey team and, then, go on to blame women's sports costs for the demise of men's gymnastics or wrestling or golf or track and field on many campuses."

3. Those who think about Title IX and say, "Hot women. That rocks."

I'm proudly in category 3.