Thursday, April 16, 2009

When is enough, enough?

In a remake of a Humphrey Bogart movie called Sabrina, Harrison Ford plays the title role of a multi-billionaire who can’t seem to get enough - of everything—houses, property, businesses, and of course money. The heroine of the movie, Sabrina, pointedly states: “ More is not necessarily better, sometimes more is just.. more.”
When I read of the latest extravagant salary of a coach—I was reminded of this line—when is more just more? Or to put it more bluntly—how much is too much, or enough, enough?
John Calipari agreed Tuesday, March 31, to leave Memphis and the dominant basketball program he built and take on the challenge — and riches — of returning Kentucky to college basketball glory.
Calipari will receive an eight-year, $31.65 million deal plus incentives, according to the uni-versity, making him the highest-paid coach in college basketball. .
At the same historical moment, colleges and universities across the US are weathering the worst recession in decades. Faculty are being dismissed, programs dropped, support services reduced, and student fees increased. Education is taking a serious hit and students can expect higher tuition, smaller scholarships, more rejection letters and bigger classes.
In considering these two stories—Calipari’s salary and the state of the recession on education - something is terribly remiss?
It seems to me that “enough is enough”.
We surveyed 20 colleges and found that not one school thought that the purpose of athletics was to improve the commercialization of their product or pay coaches extreme salaries. Rather, the purpose of athletics is always about education, character, and sportsmanship.
For example, the University of Kentucky is dedicated to improving people’s lives through excellence in teaching, research, health care, cultural environment and economic development.
The mission continues to state that the University of Kentucky facilitates learning informed by research, expands knowledge through research, scholarship and creative activity. And serves a global community by disseminating, sharing and applying knowledge.
I suppose one could argue that a $31.65 million deal plus incentives for the coach improves the economic development of the coach and his heirs, but I doubt that is what the University of Kentucky means in its statement.
I wonder when institutions are going to ask this important question: When is enough, enough?
I suggest that either the institutions rewrite their mission statements about athletics and admit that coaches salaries do not match the mission of the institution, or put a cap on coaches salaries so that athletics matches the mission statement.
If the purpose of college athletics is about education, then no coach should receive a higher salary than the very best of the university distinguished faculty, which isn't chicken feed.
A salary of 3.65+ million a year is just more—well more— and screams of a value system that is about what my mother would say, “Putting on the dog and throwing out the cat.” In other words, the institution makes a display of wealth or importance of its basketball program while ignoring the economic threat to the real purpose of the institution: learning, research and service.
I love athletics and everything about the people who coach and dedicate their lives to helping young people gain the wonderful benefits of play and games.
However, I am hard pressed to support the present salary practices for big time athletic coaches. Enough is enough. And it’s about time that we begin the discussion— even the auto makers have to justify outrageous salaries. S. Stoll, Director of the Center for ETHICS*.