PORT ARTHUR —
Editor’s note: The following column from the Best of West collection was originally published in the Port Arthur News on Aug. 28, 2007.
Good for the University of Texas. With dreaded Arkansas State rolling into Austin Saturday to serve as cannon fodder for the Longhorns, the UT System Board of regents met Tuesday to discuss a pay raise for head football coach Mack Brown.
Brown, you see, is making a mere $2.6 million a year on the deal he signed after the 2004 season. As such, he’s reportedly only the sixth highest paid coach in Division 1 football. What an embarrassment for both Mack and UT!
Not only is he lagging behind Alabama’s Nick Saban ($4 million), Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ($3.45 million), USC’s Pete Carroll ($3 million) and Notre Dame’s Charlie Weis, he’s even (gasp) making less than Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz ($2.84 million).
Now that’s just dadgum insulting.
How is Mack supposed to focus on the challenge that is Arkansas State when he knows the coach at Iowa is being paid more than he is? Hell, didn’t Texas just blow away those Big Ten wimps last year in the Alamo Bowl? Well, maybe not blow away. But the Longhorns did squeeze out a 26-24 victory.
It just doesn’t seem right that the coach at the University of Texas should be making less than the coach at Oklahoma, much less somebody at Iowa. Especially when said coach, besides being America’s most persuasive recruiter, has won all of one conference championship and one national championship in 23 years as a program’s top dog.
That latter fact sometimes gets lost when people start throwing around records. Mack’s a sparkling 179-66-1 overall and 93-22 at the University of Texas. What’s not available is how many times his teams were favored because of vastly superior talent. At UT, it must be at least 95 percent.
As Bum Phillips once said, “I’d rather be an average coach with great players than a great coach with average players.” He was not talking about Mack Brown but he very well could have been.
The purpose of this column, though, isn’t to call Brown out. Mack deserves whatever the UT system is willing to pay him. And, when you look at where Texas was in the big picture before he arrived — remember the John Mackovic days — and the insane revenues generated by his football team, he may be worth double his current salary.
No, it’s not Brown’s paycheck or his raise that’s troubling, it’s the big business that college football, in particular, and college athletics, in general, have become.
Take the University of Florida, for instance. In the midst of a faculty hiring freeze and a moratorium on raises mandated by the state, football coach Urban Meyer and basketball coach Billy Donovan recently signed new six-year contracts for $19.5 million and $21 million, respectively.
By way of comparison, the school president makes $753,756.
Coach pay versus faculty pay, of course, is an age-old argument. Bear Bryant addressed it many years ago by noting that professors don’t give their exams in front of 85,000 people. Bear would no doubt be proud of his old school, Alabama, for emphasizing the point by making Nick Saban the highest paid coach in college sports ($4 million per year).
More disturbing than the message being sent by skyrocketing coaching salaries is the exploitation of cheap labor (players). Despite soaring revenues and near year-round demands on their time, college football players, just as they were in Bear Bryant’s day, are compensated with a scholarship.
Granted, the price of an education has risen dramatically, but scholarship costs are a drop in the bucket compared to what big time football and basketball programs bring in. Part of that revenue, by the way, comes from selling jerseys with players’ names on the back.
Does the player get a cut of that profit? What a stupid question?
Meanwhile, the modern-day player is expected to put in longer hours and his options are severely limited as far as a part-time job to earn spending money. There isn’t much time for work, anyway, what with the hours spent in the weight room, on the practice field and working out in the off-season.
Players, although they want it, can’t even get the bone of playing for a real national championship. Because of all the politics invovled with the established bowls, and the money available, college football decides its national champion based on a flawed system using polls.
Sports Illustrated recently conducted a survey with players from each of the 119 Division 1 teams, involving a myriad of subjects on college football. Three of the questions focused on a playoff system, how much of their time was taken up with football and whether college players should be compensated beyond scholarships.
On the playoff question, 73.1 percent thought there should be one. But those voices won’t be heard, for reasons mentioned above, and because a playoff system would eliminate the various toilet bowls that coaches of 6-6 teams proudly stick on their resume.
The answer to the hours spent on football was eye opening, especially when one takes into consideration NCAA rules limit practice and meetings to 20 hours a week. On the responses, 81.5 percent said they spent more than 30 hours per week and the average was 38.9.
A player from the Big 12 summed it up thusly. “Playing football at a major university is a lifestyle. I go to class and the rest of the time I’m doing football stuff.”
As for the compensation question, 76.5 percent said players should receive some sort of supplemental stipend.
“This is our job, we have a lot of responsibilities and we bring in a lot of money for the school,” wrote a player from the Pac 10. “We can’t get real jobs because that distracts from school and football.”
Sadly, a relative few care about what college athletes think or want. As long as they don’t fumble or throw interceptions, get arrested, miss blocks or tackles, provide chest bumping, high-fiving thrills for fans and play well enough to keep getting raises for the Mack Browns of the sidelines, all is right.
Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at email@example.com.