Sam Pittman appears to gaze with a look that registers somewhere between wonder and disbelief at eighteen-year old, 6-foot 8-inch, 400 (!) pound Daniel Faalele.
When you don’t have to pay the hired help a market wage, the rising tide will just have to lift somebody else’s boat.
In 2006, former Kentucky coach Tubby Smith made $2.6 million. In the decade that followed, as Kentucky athletics earnings climbed from $68 million to $132 million, pay for the leader of its flagship team skyrocketed. In 2016, John Calipari made $8.6 million, an amount Kentucky officials justify as fair market value for a coach whose team will generate tens of millions of dollars.
But as more money has surged into Kentucky athletics, records show, Calipari isn’t the only coach cashing in, as the athletes remain amateurs. From 2006 to 2016, pay for Kentucky’s track and field coach climbed from $108,000 to $429,000; men’s tennis coach pay jumped from $122,000 to $230,000; and gymnastics coach pay rose from $112,000 to $252,000. Every coach made more than the school’s average full professor’s salary. In a phenomenon playing out across the country, salaries are soaring for coaches of lower-profile college sports largely subsidized by lucrative football and men’s basketball, whose annual national tournament opens Tuesday.
At the University of Kansas, men’s golf coach pay jumped from $84,000 to $201,000 over the past decade. At the University of Virginia, pay for the women’s volleyball coach rose from $94,000 to $221,000. And at West Virginia University, men’s soccer coach pay jumped from $66,000 to $188,000.
(All 2006 figures in this story have been adjusted for inflation.)
Not bad work if you can get it.
“I certainly don’t think anyone’s overpaid; I think the salary has risen for that position,” said Sam Seemes, chief executive of the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. “If these schools weren’t bringing in the revenue that they are, the coaches wouldn’t be making as much money. . . . In the United States, the companies that do the best pay more. It’s just fundamental.”
For some, anyway.
The debate over whether the men’s basketball and football players who fuel all this spending and earning should be able to make some money for themselves — either through paychecks or endorsements — remains the subject of litigation that threatens to overturn the economic structure of college sports.
“It’s a system that takes money that should be rightfully going to athletes, many of whom are minorities from underprivileged backgrounds, and reallocates it to coaches and athletic directors, many of whom are middle-aged white men. . . . How can you call that just?” said Andy Schwarz, an economist who has consulted for several lawsuits against the NCAA and college conferences.
Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart, whose salary rose from $480,000 to $695,000 in a decade, said the raises he has paid out reflect the market for good coaches in each of those sports. Kentucky athletics is one of the few self-sufficient departments in the country, and recently did something that may be unprecedented in American higher education: paid for a building that will not benefit athletics in any way. Kentucky athletics contributed $65 million for a new $112 million science building on campus.
“I get a bit disheartened when I find people who keep trying to find the bad in what we do,” said Barnhart. “I’m not a lawyer, I’m not an economist, I don’t know all of those pieces, but I know that what we do is good.”
In his heart, he knows he’s right. What else matters?
Hey, remember last year’s offensive line? Kirby Smart remembers what you thought.
“It will be a very interesting spring in that regard,” head coach Kirby Smart said Monday night during a radio appearance on UGA’s “Bulldog Hotline” show. “Because as much as everyone wanted to complain and fuss about the three (seniors) we had, they’re gone now. OK? So now we’ve got some holes to fill.”
Damn, if only that “OK?” had been an “Aiight?”. Otherwise, the tone is spot on.
[Ed. note: I gotta tell you… that never gets old.]
Chip Towers rises to defend the beleaguered Georgia athletic director.
Look, I realize it’s cool to bash on Greg McGarity right now. That certainly seems to be the trend judging from commentary I see on my social media feeds. And some of it is justified, at least based on the overall performance of Georgia’s sports teams. I’m sorry, but with the exception of a few Olympic sports, we’re not in the midst of glory days when it comes to this period of UGA athletics.
That said, I can’t get on board with the meme that McGarity is cheap. I certainly can’t when it comes to the facilities arms race that is currently raging full bore throughout the SEC. The Bulldogs are in there slugging it out when it comes spending money on buildings and “stuff.” And they’ve been at it for a while now. But they’ve also had a ways to go.
If you want to point fingers over how Georgia got so far behind with respect to facilities, you’d be better served to direct them toward McGarity’s predecessors. It was during the administration of Damon Evans and his CFO Frank Crumley that the Bulldogs fell behind, in my opinion. UGA has been playing catch-up ever since those guys left.
Hmmm… I didn’t know I was being cool griping about bathrooms and tailgating. I just thought I was pissed off. Neat trick.
There’s something both obvious and curious about Towers’ argument. But before I go there, I have to start with his pointing a finger at Frank Crumley, who Towers mistakenly references as McGarity’s predecessor. Crumley was indeed at his position before McGarity triumphantly returned from Florida, but he stayed at his position in the aftermath. Crumley was let go afterwards, but not because his new boss walked in one day, cried “begone, thou foul skinflint!” and hustled him off the premises.
No, Crumley and Georgia parted ways because he got caught with his hand in the Butts-Mehre cookie jar, spending athletic department revenues to promote a married female employee with whom he was having an affair. (Okay, maybe another part of the anatomy, too.)
What made things so special from McGarity’s standpoint was that it took him more than a year — and an open records request! — to work up to the step of actually canning Crumley. As I referred to it at the time, the Butts-Mehre Way. (The Georgia Way has many rooms, my friends.) You’d think a guy who leaped into action when Todd Gurley got a few bucks from a shady autograph dealer could have moved with more alacrity when it came to an inside job like Crumley’s, but I guess it was more important to protect amateurism than the house.
Anyway, as Marlon Brando alludes, Chip is right that it’s not totally fair to Greg McGarity to call him cheap, when he’s clearly following orders from others as to how athletic department moneys are being spent. It could be argued that it’s also not fair that those who give him direction as to the reserve fund leave him hanging with having to make absurd defenses about rainy days that may never happen, but, hey, them’s the breaks and that’s what they’re paying him for.
That being said, let’s not make McGarity out to be nothing but a helpless pawn, either. After all, it wasn’t the nameless powers behind the throne whom Jeremy Pruitt called out when he made his pitch to the media for an IPF and it wasn’t them who were publicly embarrassed by it. If you want to choose to believe that the about face on the status of the facility that occurred shortly thereafter was purely coincidence, be my guest, but that explanation strains credulity.
As far as whether McGarity is cheap, well, cheap is a relative term. Internally speaking, it’s nice to give McGarity a pass on increasing spending, as Towers does, in comparison with what went on before that fateful night of the red panties, but to do so glosses over the fact that athletic department revenues have also increased over that time, from “just shy of $90 million” in fiscal 2011 to nearly $100 million two years later to more than $116 million in fiscal 2015 (with the likely odds that number increases significantly for the following fiscal year). So, yeah, when you’ve got more coming in than before, you can spend more, too, especially when you’ve got donors who are willing to step up and participate in the funding for big capital projects.
In other words, let’s not throw any ticker tape parades yet.
Cheap is contextual in a macro sense, too, as a look at those 2015 finances in comparison with the rest of the SEC will quickly tell you. Of the thirteen conference schools listed (remember, as a private institution, Vanderbilt doesn’t report) Georgia was eighth in total revenues, but tenth in expenses, resulting in the third-largest surplus of the group.
Now if that got you wins because it was wisely managed, or if Georgia were both fiscally prudent and first-tier as far as facilities go, then there would be little room for griping. The reality, of course, is quite different. Georgia, as Towers acknowledges, has been in a catch up mode with its peer athletic departments for years, as complaints from both Richt and Smart would indicate. And as for the other little matter,
Now as for how things are going in the fields of play, McGarity is probably rooting harder than anybody else for some good things to happen. In fact, on Monday he sent out a rare direct email message to fans and donors lauding the men’s and women’s track teams for their recent fourth- and second-place finishes, respectively, in the National Indoor Championships this past weekend. And he’ll point with pride to Georgia currently being ranked No. 5 in women’s gymnastics and perennially highly-rated programs in golf, tennis, softball and swimming.
But you won’t hear much talk about volleyball, which has been a disaster and is now under the direction of the second coach under his watch. And it’s in the high-profile sports of football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball that McGarity really needs some good things to happen.
Football just lost to Ole Miss, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt in the same season; baseball continues to struggle in its fourth season under his hire, coach Scott Stricklin; and men’s and women’s basketball both missed NCAA Tournament play for the second straight season.
Yeah, that’s going well.
The problem isn’t so much that McGarity is cheap — the Georgia Way’s gonna Georgia Way, y’all — it’s that he lacks the vision to make the most out of what he’s been dealt, which, let’s be honest, isn’t inconsiderable.
A perfect example of that is evident in how taken by surprise he was with the fan base’s reaction to the announcement of the Sanford west end capital project. It’s as if he was completely unaware of the grumbling that’s gone on for years regarding the bathrooms and concessions. At least now we’ve moved on to the hinted promise stage.
More importantly to you fans, I’m hearing that there’s an announcement forthcoming — possibly as early as this week — on restroom improvements at Sanford Stadium.
Be still, my heart.
Hey, if I’m wrong, it seems there’s an easy way to prove it. As we discussed before, there’s a long list of items that would cost relatively little in the vast scheme of things, all of which would serve the fan base’s interests. All it takes is a little openness. And a little vision. Anybody at Butts-Mehre listening?
When you read a sentence like this…
While Butler was let go because of inappropriate texts to a teenager, a school official indicated they were sent to an individual who was an adult under Texas statute.
… you know they’ve had another banner day in Waco.
In one breath, Kirby looks at Jake Fromm, early enrollee at quarterback, and it’s déjà vu all over again.
“I expect him to come out and compete like he’s trying to win (the starting job),” Smart said. “To me I see him in no different eyes than Jacob was this time last year. He’s coming in, highly-regarded, heralded recruit. But he’s very serious, very professional about his work. He’s a great leader in the locker room. A lot of the guys on the team respect him. He’s got good arm strength, is a good decision-maker. But what he’s got is he’s got a little leadership to him. He’s not afraid to jump out there and tell guys where to line up, what to do, get after it a little bit with a little fire.
In the next breath, though, it sounds like he sees something more.
“So I think that dynamic, Jacob sees that, and Jacob sees this young kid coming in with a little more fire and brimstone than even he had. And plus he’s coming in with Jacob there. It makes it a little different coming in with Greyson Lambert, who was the incumbent starter. So I think Jake’s in a good place, and I think he’s ready to go compete.”
Color me skeptical that Smart’s ready to roll with another true freshman quarterback, but I have to admit that he never talked about last year’s derby in quite the same way.
Then again, maybe he’s just trying to juice us up. After all, G-Day is coming.
Asked if Smart was again calling for a 93k spring game, the coach didn’t quite make the same pitch as last year, but it was clear he wouldn’t mind. And then he again mentioned the quarterback competition, such as it is.
“Our turn out last year was a major catalyst to our recruiting efforts. … Certainly we’re encouraging to get a great turnout for that game,” Smart said. “And certainly it would be a great setting. You’d get to see a good young quarterback in Jake Fromm, go out there and compete against Jacob. We’ll see how the practices go, but I’m looking forward to seeing him in the spring game.”
And you thought I was kidding about that. All that’s missing are the condoms.