Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How do we justify pay for football coaches?

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

Vandal football coach Rob Akey, with an overall record at the University of Idaho of 11-26, will be considered for a raise from $258,187 to $355,797 when the Idaho State Board of Education meets this week.

According to the Idaho Statesman, Akey’s new five-year contract comes in two parts, $165,796 in base pay and $190,000 in media compensation. He’s also promised various incentives, ranging from $5,000 if he earns WAC coach of the year to $100,000 if the Vandals make a BCS bowl appearance.

The new contract is precedent setting. Akey’s 2007 contract, giving him five years and $1.2 million, was already the largest contract in Vandals’ history.

The new contract was spurred by the Vandals victory in the Humanitarian Bowl, which capped an 8-5 season. The Vandals went 1-11 and 2-10 in Akey’s first two years as head coach.

The Vandals drew a total of 75,000 fans to six home games in 2009. Average home attendance in 2009 ranked 116th of 120 Division 1 teams.

Akey’s raise comes during the same year in which all teaching faculty at the University of Idaho are being forced to take furloughs — leaves without pay — because of the crisis in the state budget. About 2,600 staff members were instructed to take the cuts in time and pay, saving the university about $1.2 million.

Given that the mission of the University of Idaho speaks to educational goals, the question arises: Why is one football coach being rewarded financially while educators are being asked to sacrifice a portion of their salaries?

Those who want to weigh the relative merits of football and educational services to the University of Idaho may look to the Points of Pride listings. The university speaks of its place among the best universities in America, of being a great value in education, and of being one of the top national, doctoral-granting universities. It talks of attracting more National Merit Scholars than all other institutions in the state combined, as well as being one of Outside Magazine’s top 30 universities for hitting the books and the outdoors. Football isn’t mentioned.

University of Idaho President Duane Nellis makes $335,000 per year. What educational justification is there for paying an 11-26 football coach at a school with one of the smallest fan bases more than the president of the university?

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