Coaching Salaries Rise as Does Institutional Support for College Sports

A USA Today cover story looked at the rising costs of the compensation for NCAA Division I college basketball coaches, and the significant amounts institutional support of athletics at many institutions. The report includes a database disclosing the earnings of the coaches with teams in the 2010 men’s basketball tournament and a database of NCAA financial reports for more than 200 Division I institutions.

In the current economic climate, colleges and universities are challenged with difficult financial decisions, and the spiraling costs, skyrocketing coaches’ salaries and softening revenue have affected even those athletic programs with access to greater amounts of revenue.

According to several studies, including The Empirical Effects of College Athletics co-written by the now-White House budget director Peter Orszag, for every $1 a school pays to build its athletic program, it gets $1 back in new revenue. In other words, with rare exceptions, spending more on a football or men’s basketball program does not yield increases in alumni giving, net operating revenue, winning or academic quality.

The USA Today report found the average salary of the head coaches for the 65 schools in the 2010 NCAA tournament this year is $1.3 million, not including benefits, perks and incentives. Head coaches at institutions in one of the six conferences with the most revenue (ACC, Big 10, Big East, Big 12, SEC, PAC-10) earn an average of $1.9 million, five times more than coaches from other conferences.

According to the report, about $1.8 billion in student fees and university funds went to cover gaps in athletic operating costs at those schools last year, the newspaper found. The USA Today analysis was based on thousands of pages of inflation-adjusted NCAA athletic data reported since 2005, from open-records requests to hundreds of Division I public schools.

R. Gerald Turner, co-chairman of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, stated “There are pressures that one would predict would keep (spending) going up if nothing is changed, and I think it’s clear that for at least two more years, expenditures for the academic sector are going to go down. I think that is not a position most universities want to be in — or that they’ll find sustainable, either operationally or politically.” Turner is also president of Southern Methodist University.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan also responded to the fact that between 2006 and 2009, the average pay for a head football coach at one of the 99 public institutions in the FBS rose 46% to $1.4 million.

“Great football coaches are worth a tremendous amount,” Duncan says. “But at a time of declining revenues and declining financial aid, the coaches are up 46%? In the insular world of high-stakes, very competitive sports, that might make sense. But if you talk to an average parent or an average 16- or 17-year-old and give them those facts, they’d have a hard time understanding why that’s the priority.”

Links to the USA Today series:

RISING SALARIES: Colleges seek funds to close budget gaps

SUBSIDIES INCREASING: Schools raise fees to prop up college sports

FIND A SCHOOL: Search the database of Division I college finances

ANALYSIS: College sports soak up subsidies, fees

BIG-TIME ATHLETICS: Are they worth the big-time costs?