We’ve gone down this road ourselves a time or two (or three) over the years, but it’s good to see others are in agreement: Good football coaches are worth the millions they are paid.
When it comes to football coaching salaries, yes, they may be too high in the grand scheme of things. In a perfect world — at least in our view — educators and ministers and social workers and others who dedicate their lives to the well-being and growth of others should be paid more than a guy who draws Xs and Ox on a chalkboard. But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world where colleges depend on multi-million dollar football programs for cash and exposure. Because of that, successful college coaches aren’t overpaid at all.
Tom Van Riper of Forbes Magazine made that case yesterday when writing of Alabama’s Nick Saban:
“If you think that a top college football coach earning seven figures is overpaid, think again. To appreciate just how modest Saban’s $5.3 million salary is, take a wider look around campus. Since 2007, Tuscaloosa has swelled its undergraduate ranks by 33% to over 28,000 students. Faculty count has kept pace: up 400 since 2007 to over 1,700. But it’s more than growth — it’s where the growth is coming from. According to the school, less than a third of the 2007 freshman class of 4,538 students hailed from out of state. By the fall of 2012, more than half (52%) of a freshman class of 6,397 students did. Various data from US News and The New York Times shows that the school’s out-of-state tuition cost — nearly three times higher than the rate for in-state students — rose from $18,000 to $22,950 a year during that period.
Add it up — more students from outside Alabama paying ever-increasing premium tuition bills — and the school realized $50 million more in out-of-state tuition revenue for last fall’s incoming class than it did for the same class in 2007 ($76 million vs. $26 million). Kick in the additional $8.5 million in in-state tuition, which rose to $9,200 a year from $6,400 over the same period, and overall tuition revenue rose to $104 million from $46 million for the respective 2012 and 2007 freshman classes. And to boot, the school’s most recent capital campaign (i.e. donations from alumni and others) raised $600 million for scholarship and facilities, the most ever.”
One can debate whether a school’s mission should be to educate the people of its area or to make more cash by luring in students from elsewhere. One can also debate how much focus a school should place on athletics.
What’s not up for debate is the fact that successful coaches bring in more money — through increased ticket sales, increased merchandise sales, donations, exposure on national television, etc — than they are paid out.
That’s not just true of football coaches. While the guys on the gridiron typically earn more, winning basketball coaches like Kentucky’s John Calipari can also up a school’s revenues. And while a monocled professor of advanced themodynamics or Sanskrit might argue, those increased revenues do aid the school as a whole… not just its athletic department.
With athletics serving as the best advertisement for a school, hiring and paying a successful football or basketball coach is nothing more than an investment of the university’s funds. Officials at Alabama and Kentucky can tell you that sometimes a big investment can result in big rewards.