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Which League Has Biggest Gap Between Football Salaries And Teaching Salaries? The SEC

mortar-board-on-footballCollege football coaches make more than university professors.

Do we need to hand out smelling salts after delivering such shocking news?  Of course not.  Because that news isn’t shocking at all to anyone.

The website InsideHigherEd.com reports on a new study that in part explores the discrepancies between teaching salaries and football coaching salaries.  That study was conducted by three scholars and can be found here.  The slimmed down version in InsideHigherEd.com can be found here.  The title of the report is “Disproportionate Paychecks.”

But we ask, disproportionate in what way?

If salaries were handed out based upon value to society, there’s no question professors should make more than football coaches.  That’s a given.  You’d be hard-pressed to find even a football fan batty enough to argue differently.

But salaries are not handed out based on value to society.  At universities — like most businesses — paychecks are often determined by the amount of money a person helps to create for his employer.  It’s a question of value.  And as the old saying goes, you won’t find 90,000 people showing up on a Saturday to watch a chemistry exam.

Fair?  Certainly not.  Reality?  Yes.

So it should come as no surprise that the site finds that: “Coaches’ salaries increase year after year at much higher rates — even as many colleges say they are engaged in belt-tightening across the board — and that pattern is driven by the institutions with the largest athletic programs.”

But there is a reason we’ve chosen to discuss this topic on a site that covers SEC athletics.  According to InsideHigherEd.com, among all conferences “the SEC saw the highest escalation in football coaching salaries” between 2005 and 2011.  The report states:

 

“In that conference — home to about a quarter of the nation’s 23 athletic programs where revenues actually outpace expenses — instructional salaries rose 15.5% between 2006 and 2011, from $70,886 to $81,758.  At the same time, football coaching salaries increased 128.9%, from $3,147,149 to $5,928,989.”

 

Again, everyone should be fully aware that football — on most campuses — is responsible for the huge revenue stream known as television money.  In addition, thanks to many millions of Americans watching college games on television, football has also become the best form of advertising most schools have.  Armed with that knowledge, it doesn’t a university’s board much time to decide who’ll get the biggest salary on campus.

But here’s the key part of the study in our view — The fact that the SEC has the largest gap between football salaries and teaching salaries only furthers the stereotype that Mike Slive’s league is a so-so academic conference.  And that’s a stereotype Slive and the SEC’s presidents have been trying to overcome through the creation of an academic consortium and with the addition of two more AAU schools in Missouri and Texas A&M (bringing the league total to four with Florida and Vanderbilt).

InsiderHigherEd.com provides a chart comparing the salary information from all Division I conferences.  Below we’ll compare just the SEC’s growth numbers (from 2005 to 2011) to those of the other 10 FBS conferences:

 

  Conference   % Salary Growth Football   % Salary Growth Teachers   Difference
  SEC   129%   16%   113 % pts
  Big East   120%   16%   104 % pts
  ACC   112%   15%   97 % pts
  Pac-12   91%   15%   76 % pts
  Sun Belt   72%   16%   56 % pts
  Big Ten   69%   16%   53 % pts
  MWC   69%   17%   52 % pts
  Big XII   67%   16%   51 % pts
  MAC   65%   16%   49 % pts
  C-USA   55%   15%   40 % pts
  WAC   46%   15%   41 % pts

 

That’s not the kind of chart that will make SEC pointy-heads happy.  Heck, even the jocks might blush a bit over that discrepancy.

But things could change in the future.

Over the next few years, the SEC will have more money pouring in than ever before.  A new television network, revenue from the new College Football Playoff, revenue from a new co-owned Sugar Bowl, and revenue from a new bowl lineup should help increase the conference’s per-school annual payout anywhere from 50% to 100% in the short-term, even more in the long-term.

How the SEC’s schools decide to spend that money will help change — or reinforce — the perception that the league cares about athletics first, academics second.  For now, SEC member institutions are simply doubling-down on what’s bringing in much needed cash.  “If football makes us the most money, let’s reinvest in football.”  Makes sense.

With more cash coming in, however, the league’s athletic departments should be able to kick a bit more money back over to their academic counterparts.  The SEC’s academic consortium can be strengthened as well.

Whether or not that happens — and to what extent — will be a hot topic on 14 SEC campuses in the coming years.

 


7 comments
MoKelly1
MoKelly1

I think it is much simpler than all that. How many head football coaches does a university have? How many professors does a university have?

Also, I find it amazing that all these schools have had almost exactly the same % growth in salaries for teachers over a 6 year timeframe. Hundreds of universities and it is all the same. So, what this tells me is the SEC (and all other conferences) are paying teachers year-over-year at market rates. The SEC, however, pays head football coaches more than other conferences. Perhaps that has a little to do with the SEC football success over that period of time? Pay for performance.

I'm not sure the SEC has anything to be ashamed of in these numbers. They pay teaches market rates vs. other universities. The y pay head coaches more based on unmatched success vs. other conferences.

CDarwin
CDarwin

John, do you think the NCAA should take some action on capping coaching salaries? It seems like this arms race is really starting to hurt the competitive balance of the sport, as well as undermine its credibility with people who aren't fans. Capping salaries would by default allow schools with profitable programs to kick more money to academic spending, and help schools with smaller programs better participate in the non-financial benefits of successful college sports (exposure, building ties with the community, etc), without blowing out their budgets.

BonzaiB
BonzaiB

A slightly different take on that. I taught at the University of Connecticut for 4 years (College of Liberal Arts if that makes a difference), and I will humbly disagree with the comment that professors have more value to society, than say coaches. Coaches have a tremendous impact on academic institutions, and therefore society. As a general rule, from my experience, professors don't get the short end of the stick on salaries. 

Liberal Arts professors MAKE WAY MORE than as a general rule they could make with their skill sets on the outside. Once they start teaching, within 3 to 5 years, they are pretty much on auto pilot for course material. At 10 years, they are tenured. GUARANTEED a job with a PHENOMINAL retirement benefits to salary ratio. Coaches make a bunch, but they generate revenue, they spend many more hours at the work site per week than most profs, they work much more closely with, and have a greater impact on the future of their students, than the average LA professor, are in a career field that is highly risky, etc. And it goes on, and on.

Now, professors in genetics, bio mechanical engineering, (heck, engineering in general), medicine, and more, I'd agree with you. I can tell you, we could do away with 50% of the education professors and 90% of the journalism profs, and we would still generate twice as many in each of those disciplines we as a society could hire. Not much value in that. Philosophy majors? History, political science and the like are place holders for "I think I may want to be a lawyer if I don't have to study much harder than this crowd." And yeah, I have a degree in history.

Understand the sentiment behind the statement, but my experience tells me professors make plenty. Not at first, 'cause universities have 10 times more applications for starting profs than they want. But believe me, professors are more than compensated after tenure. If it was not such a great gig for the skill set and work output, you would not have the astounding numbers of people per job applying. Loved my English Lit class, but the best English Lit professors in the country do not have much of an impact in the big scheme of things.

Most universities realize this. Most know they do not have to offer more than they pay academics to get a very high quality person at the lecturn. The reason is: its a very, very good gig. Academics want more pay, all the time. But drive through an academic town (start with Gainesville if you want). Look at where the tenured profs live. Look at the cars they drive. They do fine.

The test is the "how much professors enhance the value of the degree." Individually, not much. In some cases, a lot, but those profs are few and far in between at any given university. Now,  how much in donations to the University of Alabama does Nick Saban's success generate for academics? Millions. UF alumni, Auburn, USC, etc, throw a lot of money at their schools. What binds them to their alma mater? Sports is the number one answer. Not academics, because most colleges and universities have a "factory" approach to degrees in most disciplines, and most universities produce exactly the same quality of undergrad as the next. There are exceptions, but as a general rule, you can't tell the difference in the educational skills of a grad from one state uni to the next. In contrast, Nick Saban generates a tremendous long term donation stream that dwarfs his salary in the long run, which helps the universities get things they really want.

Universities spend millions and millions a year on sports for a reason. They get healther every year they do it. Sports makes you famous, and famous helps you hire better and better big name profs, and helps in the end fund that. 

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@CDarwin 

I see where you're coming from but the NCAA getting involved probably isn't the answer.  It's up to the schools to decide how much they invest in coaches.

People were dismayed when Alabama offered Nick Saban $4 million per year, but he's brought in enough money to easily cover his salary.  An expanded stadium (with more people putting more money in school coffers for every home game), BCS championships (creating exposure for the school and driving up applications), etc.

Now, once the new revenue streams kick in it will be interesting to see how much schools funnel toward academics and how much they funnel to their coaches.

Thanks for reading the site,

John

JR Clark
JR Clark

@BonzaiB This article is evidence that the Ivy League colleges and service academies made the right decision in the latter half of the 20th century to emphasize academics and de-emphasize big-time athletics.  The SEC schools went the route of creating a "university the football team would be proud of".

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@BonzaiB 

Further proof that if I write the sky is blue, someone will argue that it is actually cyan or azure.  Never dreamed I'd get an argument over that one, though.

Thanks for reading the site,

John

BonzaiB
BonzaiB

@John at MrSEC @BonzaiBWhere I "disagree", but would not "argue" the point with you, is that somehow academics might be underpaid at universities. Since there is no right answer, your opinion is as valid as mine, I was just giving the site my take on that. If that came across as argumentative, I'll just say I perhaps let my bias out too strongly. Not that that changes anything, its still my opinion and certainly not going to tell you that you on wrong on the point.

Your response to CDarwin, "People were dismayed when Alabama offered Nick Saban $4 million per year, but he's brought in enough money to easily cover his salary.  An expanded stadium (with more people putting more money in school coffers for every home game), BCS championships (creating exposure for the school and driving up applications), etc." is what I concluded with, basically.

And, the mark of a good peice in my mind is one that brings out different takes on an issue, and if I did not think your article was thought provoking, I would not have taken the time to shovel (use that metafor however you would like) my opinion into the mix.

Great site, very good set of articles this week. Been breaking my football withdrawl shakes for the last month. Again, this site is first on more stuff than any other site I read, and well worth taking hits from your keyboard every now and then.

Cheers.


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