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    Monday, December 04, 2006

    My View: Show Me The Money

    I know that this is not a shocker but big time college football seems to be reaching a troubling point. In fact, it is no longer limited to the traditional big time powers. Intermediate schools are now becoming part of this scenario. The troubling point that I am talking about is the escalation of salaries and bidding wars for head football coaches at the college level.

    The situation that precipitated my latest concern was the University of South Carolina who significantly bumped up Steve Spurrier's salary because they feared he may go to Alabama. The last time I checked South Carolina is not considered one of the premier programs yet they can fork out close to $2 million a year for Spurrier. And yet today we see another school that will be adjusting its contract for its coach. Rutgers is supposedly drafting a 10 year $20 million contract for its head coach who was considering Miami. What is going on?

    USAToday recently did an extensive report on this very subject and it was very revealing. As they reported, "The million-dollar coach, once a rarity, is now the norm. Head coaches at the NCAA's top-level schools are making an average of $950,000 this year, not counting benefits, incentives, subsidized housing or any of the perks they routinely receive. At least 42 of the 119 Division I-A coaches are earning $1 million or more this year, up from five in 1999." Let's also be realistic regarding most college football head coaches. They will never be Rhodes scholars or rocket scientists. Heck, some of them cannot even speak the King's English.

    For an example of how this has really gotten out of control, you can look to Iowa and its head coach Kirk Ferentz. While he is considered a good coach, he is hardly a household name among the coaching elite. Iowa was 7-5 in 2005 and is 6-6 this year. Iowa's bowl games during his tenure have been several Outback Bowls and and one Orange Bowl. His record in 11 seasons at Iowa is 67-63(.515). So what is he getting paid for this average at best record?

    Here it is:

    Guaranteed compensation June 1, 2006-June 30, 2007:

    Base salary: $1.44 million (includes shoe and apparel endorsements, compensation for working at a summer football camp, participating in radio and TV shows).

    Recurring supplemental payments: $1.4 million (four payments of $350,000 annually, Sept. 2006-June 2007).

    Longevity bonus: $400,000 (paid for remaining Iowa's coach as of June 1, 2006).

    One-time payment: $1.4 million (paid on or before June 1, 2006 under contract amendment dated May 15, 2006).

    Total: $4.64 million

    So what does Gary Barta, the Iowa atheltic director say about this unbelievable compensation? "Is (Ferentz's compensation) fair? I'm not going to judge that. Is it the reality across the country? Yes. We want to keep Kirk here. The marketplace drives what we pay ... and right now the marketplace is aggressive."

    Well, I will say it. It is unfair and represents how universities and boosters are out of control. We have seen the excesses at Alabama and we are hearing of possible NCAA investigations at Oklahoma. The despicable payoff of Jeff Bowden by FSU Boosters, Inc. represents yet another example. If these coaches want to be fairly compensated, put in clauses regarding graduation rates. When money like this gets involved, programs become havens for illegality. It is up to college presidents to put on the brakes to these excesses. My guess is that they don't have the will nor the guts.

    Until then, we will have head coaches pressuring their universities to show them the money.

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