Is Spending on Collegiate Athletics Sustainable?

On November 24, the Columbia Free Times published an article that discussed the escalating cost of college athletics, particularly coaching salaries of head football and men’s basketball coaches at major Division I institutions. The article referred to the Presidential Survey report released in October by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics which found that most university presidents surveyed said compensation for football and basketball coaches is “excessive.”

The article stated that despite high coaching salaries at the University of South Carolina (USC), it is one of the relatively few athletic departments in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I) that operate in the black. In fiscal year 2008, revenues exceeded outlays by more than $1 million. Coaching salaries at the University of South Carolina include head football coach Steve Spurrier’s $2 million in salary and other compensation, which exceeds the national average for top coaches of $1.36 million. Additionally, several assistant coaches — Steve Spurrier Jr., Brad Lawing, Ellis Johnson, Eric Wolford and Lorenzo Ward — make $200,000, a salary that just 10 years ago would have been unfathomable for an assistant coach.

USC president Harris Pastides says such rising spending levels — aren’t sustainable for the long-term health of universities.

“I don’t believe that the escalation in coaches‚ salaries and facilities costs is sustainable, but I don’t think anyone knows what that ceiling is because it is driven by market forces and is not regulated,” Pastides says in an emailed response to questions. “Athletic spending is a matter of concern for me and many college presidents across the country and is something that is already being addressed outside the university borders.”

USC athletics director Eric Hyman shares that view.

“I don’t believe the escalation of coaches’ salaries and overall athletics spending is sustainable to the degree that it risen in the recent past,” Hyman says in an emailed response. However, he says smaller schools are private schools are feeling the heat more than USC. “Presidents of those schools have reason for concern about money that is being spent on athletics, because for a large number of those schools, athletics are not revenue producing, as they are in conferences like the SEC.”

Link here to the full article.