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September 13, 2010 - Concerned about rising tuition? Look at the coaches’ salaries

An editorial in the Boston Globe focused on the increasing costs of college athletics, particularly how coaching salaries for non-revenue sports are beginning to surpass the salaries of university presidents and full tenured professors. The editorial considered the findings in the recent Knight Commission report, Restoring the Balance: Dollars, Values, and the Future of College Sports, as part of its stated  concern over the costs of college athletics with respect to the academic mission of higher education. It stated:

"DEALING WITH the cost of higher education isn’t exclusively a matter of parents reaching further into their pockets or taxpayers ponying up more financial aid: Colleges and universities have to become more efficient. They need to believe that lowering tuition, or at least slowing its growth, is their responsibility, not society’s. And before getting all puffed up about how cuts could undermine their academic missions, major universities should look hard at what they’re paying their sports coaches.

It’s long been noted that top-paid basketball and football head coaches make $4 million to $5 million a year, while salaries for assistant coaches have hit the $1 million mark. Those sports happen to bring in revenue in ticket sales and contributions from loyal alumni. But salary inflation extends well beyond the packed stadiums and into the distant playing fields of lower-profile sports.

Five baseball coaches in the Southeastern Conference make at least $500,000 a year, surpassing the $436,111 median pay of public-university presidents. Schools like Florida, Oklahoma, and Ohio State pay volleyball, softball, baseball, and even strength-and-conditioning coaches double and triple what they pay full professors. At Ohio State, according to a 2009 Columbus Dispatch story, the $331,000 salary of the baseball coach was more than triple the entire ticket revenue for that sport.

As a result, most sports programs tend to be money losers, even at universities with tens of millions in ticket revenue. A recent National Collegiate Athletic Association report found that at the top of Division 1, only 14 of 120 athletic programs made money in 2009, down from 25 in 2008. The median losses by athletic departments exploded by 26 percent in just one year, from $8.1 million to $10.2 million. As they try to outdo one another, schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big Ten, the Big 12, and the Southeastern Conference spend between $106,000 and $145,000 per athlete, according to a June report by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics."

For the complete editorial, link here.