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*.


  1. I think the coach should probably donate some of his salary to save more faculty and staff jobs. I also believe in karma. What goes around, comes around. Coaches and the university administration actions will consequences. It may happen sooner, or it may happen later...

  2. Having been raised by a teacher, I strongly believe that the money being used to hire a new big-time coach should be used to keep current professors, and possibly the hiring of additional teachers. Teachers in the education system have the responsibility of molding and shaping the minds of our country's futures leaders. This is such a important position and I believe therefore it should show in their salary. Teachers/professors deserve more respect for their positions then what they currently receive from the state/nation. I feel it is the teachers,leaders, doctors, nurses, etc. of this country who should be receiving the "good paychecks" not necessarily the celebrities, athletes, and big-name coaches. I respect what coaches do, and what athletes are capable of, but winning a game isn't the same as providing knowledge and molding the minds of individuals.

  3. We didn't create this situation. But we still live in the environment where we are part of it. And coaches' salaries, for the most part, don't make sense.

  4. Mike A. said:

    The admittededly high salary of the basketball coach is, in my view, extreme. Some universities (out of 2,000 plus) have gotten into the escalating salary war for top coaches in football, and basketball primarily. An interesting idea proposed by doc about keeping the salaries tiered. At that point, how do you justify the tiering system? Are national champion swimming coaches only worth x while a mediocre football coach is worth 6 times x? Where does the english prof. fit in?
    Many Japanese manufacturing companies have a guideline that the top executives can make no more than 10 to 20 times whatever the lowest paid worker makes. Another example of "spreading the wealth" as Pres. Obama has said. Should we let free markets determine worth and salaries, or should we institute an arbitrary cap? Maybe this cap should be in place for all the state employees, not just university. Ex. A state electrical lineman is worth the same salary as an ethics professor... Again, where do we draw the lines? I agree that the costs are hurting universities AND killing morale in athletic departments. Dina had an interesting thought... If the coach took the same amount as the univerversity President (Chancellor, whatever) and used the rest to donate to the school, the political stock gained would be enormous. Even if only for a year or so the magnaminity of the gesture would appreciated.

    Even so, the tenure system must be critically reviewed. It keeps too many incompetent teachers on the payroll. In coaching, you are only as good as your students. Maybe we should judge professors the same way. You have one or two years of under-performing students (on say a national test or compared to other universities) and you are out on your ear. I would bet the level of teaching would be up significantly.

  5. I think the problem is beyond what we saw, it is more than just the University and the Coach's iusse. Becasue with out all the supports the University will not be able to offer the 3.65+million dollars per year. The question is why people support sports more than education.

  6. There is clearly a problem here. Playing for a program where the coach's salary doesn't even scratch a football team travel budget, and looking at the success of each, it is clear that something is wrong. Bringing in the teaching side, what a University is known for, brings a whole new situation.
    With the economy as it is, I beleive that any sort of money needed to keep the University afloat, should go to the University, and not to some overated coach who has promised change. Programs are being shut, classes are getting out of hand, and the big time programs are receiving money to recruit a coach. There is something wrong here.

  7. I believe that such an issues is a double edge sword. On one side the coach is a huge ambassador for the university and helps give exposure to the school. In such a role the coach and the basketball team help bring in students to the university which brings revenue. On the other side though, I feel 31 million dollar salary is quite excessive when no other coaches such as Roy Williams from UNC are not making anywhere near that much and has proven himself many times through winning champoinships and such.

  8. I agree with what everyone has said already about there being a problem with the salary of these coaches. The point about the mission statements makes it all very clear. Each university needs to take a look at their mission and vision statements. They need to observe what current practices fall along the lines of the outlined statements and goals and what does not. They need to decide what is most important to the university and examine why athletics receive a huge budget while other programs are being cut. All students should be treated equally, whether they are a student athlete, a student in science or mathematics, a student in general studies, or any other student. Each student should be offered the same opportunities. Certain students should not be punished by having their programs cut just to maintain a salary of millions of dollars for a coach.

  9. From Mike A. (part deux)

    What all of you are forgetting (Doc too) is that those few universities (out of about 2000) that offer these stupendously high salaries are paying the coaches salaries from state funds. The majority of the BIG $$ for these salaries comes from boosters and is NOT part of the universities budget. These guys are writing checks for the coach. They would not be writing these checks to the philosophy department in any case. The University of Florida has a annual budget of about 60 million clams. ALL of it is raised within the department, not a dime of state funds. Now, granted, not too many schools have that kind of support (about 8 actually) but you get the idea. Why doesn't the math department hit up their alums for checks? Because most academics are lazy. Most of them only want to concentrate on their own little part of their own department. They expect to be given funding for all of their needs. Their is no accountability as to their teaching ability or effectiveness. If another department (theater, athletics) happens to get off their butts and raise funds, the academics sit in their offices and fume about someone having more than them.

    Remember also that the statistics above only gave us % increase differences. Starting or ending nominative values were omitted, rendering the data useless. Can't wait to talk about this next week...

  10. Ah, the discussion gets ripe. To Mike: It is true that College Sports, Inc. is a different animal. But it is also true from the Knight Commission Report and the President's Committee of the NCAA that this hiccup about salaries being paid by the INC. is outside the purvey of what the mission statement of the institution is about.
    Are academics lazy? I don't know, I never thought of myself as lazy... maybe I am :-)
    Should academics sell tickets to their classroom so people can cheer what we do? Should academics show their worth through the types of jobs their students get? Well, actually we do measure the success of our students through accredidation, job success, and where our students land. I don't know that anyone would pay to see me lecture...oh, wait, you do!!! :-) This is fun...

  11. From Mike A.

    Of course I don't mean you Doc! No really what we are talking about is the NORMAL collegiate experience in athletics. MOST teams do not charge admission for viewing. Most coaches are not judged on what types of jobs their students get. It is all about how they do while being coached. It's all about how much they improve and then the coach is judged by how well his/her students do in relation to other institutions. Are all academics lazy? No more than all coaches/administrators/etc... are. What I am saying is that most academics are not judged on their effectiveness in an objective, measureable way and that they should be.

    Most of the time in class there is talk of the excesses of athletics. Yes there are excesses. But the argument is that we constantly talk about a minority problem like it's a majority problem. Most teams behave well. Most athletes behave well. Most coaches/athletes are grossly underpaid or not paid at all. We talk about the few individuals who stick out for the headlines but we rarely speak of the vast majority of coaches and athletes who labor without scholarships, budgets, pay, TV time, fans, etc...

  12. Steph B. here..

    I agree with much of what you have to say DOC. There are certain coaches who are paid an outrageous amount to coach. But these same discrepencies don't apply to all coaches. I would venture to say that it is the minority that exprience this. I know quite a few coaches and none of them exceed $150,00 salary. That particular coach lives in the bay area, ca.

    I agree with mike. Most coaches by comparison are grossly underpaid. I dont ever expect to make millions being a soccer coach but only enought to live comfortably and take care of my family.

    I think that this gross over payment of this particular coach just goes show where i society places the most value. Not on education, personal development, or research; but on athletics and sport.

  13. In this situation he is being paid way too much. There needs to be some sort of set standard for coaching college. That way it can be more of and even ground.