The Chronicle of Higher Education recently ran a section on athletics and academics in the Southeastern Conference (SEC), revealing, among other things, that “of the league’s 12 head football coaches, eight make $2-million a year or more, twice as many as in any other league.” The biggest earner is the guy at left, Florida coach Urban (“Legend”) Meyer, who was given a $750,000 raise last month, making his salary $4 million a year—this just after the university’s overall budget was cut by $42 million.
To paraphrase Congressman Barney Frank: What planet are these people on?
Maybe the most shocking thing in the section was a chart showing changes in spending on athletics vs. academics by the twelve colleges in the conference. With two exceptions (Vanderbilt and–barely–Ole Miss) sports far outstripped studies. The most egregious offenders were Georgia (12% increase for academics, 57% for sports) and Auburn (5%/38%). The University of Arkansas spent nearly $63 million on sports in the most recent year for which figures were available, and barely more than that on academics–$108 million. Its football coach, Bobby Petrino, gets paid $2.9 million a year.
The proof of the pudding is in the NCAA figures: Arkansas shows a 45% graduation rate for its football players.
I’m not a dummy. I understand that economically, these decisions are rational. That is, Meyer will probably be responsible for bringing in more than his salary a year, in dollars, good feelings, and glory to the U. of Florida name.
But with priorities like this, do these outfits still have a right to be called institutions of higher learning? I don’t think so.