Friday, December 02, 2011

Priorities

My colleagues at Texas A&M University must be so happy to hear that in these troubled economic times, their university is rumored to be offering the current University of Houston football coach a $4M/yr salary to come to College Station. I like college sports as much as the next person, but what does it say about higher education in the US that a public university, dealing with tight budgets, thinks that this is smart?

8 comments:

the_sparrow's_tail said...

well i thought that most undergraduate education programs at the us were simply about beer and football ;) how you going to keep the students if you have a loosing team?

Anzel said...

Here's a cynical interpretation: As a public institution A&M needs the goodwill of the Texas government. These good-old-boys love their football, and having a top-notch team inspires all sorts of loyalty (far more than, say, a local prof getting elected to the National Academy of
Sciences). This keeps A&M in the thoughts of the pols, helping prevent even more budget slashing.

This may be entirely wrong, but who knows.

Doug Natelson said...

Anzel - I think you're basically correct. The problem is, once upon a time (say 60 years ago), college athletics was a fun sideline, something to keep the students in shape, happy, and generally well-rounded. Since then, it's become very very big business - so much so that it completely distorts or obscures the academic mission of these institutions. Maybe it would be better for all concerned if we just spun off minor leagues for football and basketball, allowed the players to get paid, and got rid of the fiction that this still has something to do with education for the vast majority of the athletes.

David Brown said...

Is there any other country than the U.S.A. that has anything remotely approaching the $ multi-million/yr Am. football coach in colleges and universities?

Gautam Menon said...

As far as I know, nowhere else in the world are college football coaches paid as much as in the US. I remember a (possible apocryphal) story about how when the Nobel prizewinner Steven Weinberg was hired at UT, Austin, a condition he placed was that he should be paid as much as the football coach. I don't know if this was just for that initial year or whether his salary was permanently pegged to the coaches salary, but its a good story.

Sambandamurthy Ganapathy said...

Doug,
Valid point about the football business obscuring the academic mission. But as you had mentioned, football is a business and the top 5 colleges typically make upwards of $50 million profit a year.

At least part of this money, I suppose, is spent on university activities and mission. It is one way of generating money for education when government support is diminishing?

Anonymous said...

Sambandamurthy,

As far as I know, you cannot directly use the money generated by athletic departments to pay for academic needs. It's used to pay for athletic department salaries and to fund less profitable sports (soccer, volleyball, etc).

Indirectly though, if you have a profitable athletic department you can redirect money to fund other departments (non-athletic) that otherwise would've gone to finance school sports.

Anonymous said...

Gautam,

The rumor is actually that Weinberg's contract stipulates he must be the highest paid academic employee on campus. Athletic department employees are not included.

Without a doubt, Weinberg's salary is higher than any other professor or administrator not in Athletics.

Personally, I don't care how good or important Weinberg still is, I think that contract point (if true) is detrimental to the future of the university. They won't be able to hire another Nobel laurate or senior professor that wants to make more than ~$500k a year. Just like overpaying coaches, I think that was a bad decision to agree to that (once again, assuming the word on the streets is true) when they hired him. Oh well...