College 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:
|| % Salary Growth Football
|| % Salary Growth Teachers
|| 113 % pts
| Big East
|| 104 % pts
|| 97 % pts
|| 76 % pts
| Sun Belt
|| 56 % pts
| Big Ten
|| 53 % pts
|| 52 % pts
| Big XII
|| 51 % pts
|| 49 % pts
|| 40 % pts
|| 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.