All that money’s gotta go somewhere.

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?


Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

21 responses to “All that money’s gotta go somewhere.

  1. DawgPhan

    Aggregating the output of many to a select few seems to be happening everywhere. We are the richest country, but we no longer have the richest middle class. CEO pay soars, golden parachutes deploy all the while they fight paying a living wage to those they employ.

    At least I have the opportunity to try and claw some of it back. These athletes have no such freedom.


    • Napoleon BonerFart


      • DawgPhan

        meh. I dont work fast food and my ceo, who is underpaid in comparison to other similar CEOs, make well over 100 times what I make.

        I dont begrudge him earning what he does. If I want more I have options. Not everyone has those options and are just forced to accept that the company store just increased the cost of bread and milk so the boss can buy a 3rd house.


        • Napoleon BonerFart

          Your statements are incongruent. Because you have options, your boss earning seven figures is fair. But if you didn’t have options, your boss earning that much would be unfair, and you would expect him to be forced to give up some of his salary to compensate you for your lack of job skills.

          Whether you have adequate job skills to command a “living wage” is more of a reflection on you than your boss.

          In either case, my statement remains. Forcing companies to pay workers beyond what they are worth only hurts the lowest skilled workers.


  2. Derek

    An interview with Mitch Barnhart:


  3. Barnhart and his band of merry idiots think they created this value, too. At least Jed Clampett was smart enough to realize he was plumb lucky to be standing on top of a bunch of oil. It’s going to be a glorious day when Kessler kicks all their pompous asses in court.


  4. Chadwick

    Mitch fully supports the re-distribution of income when it’s being re-distributed to his demographic. Fucking liberal. ; )

    I wish this could all be sorted to the betterment of all involved, but Kessler is going to force Congress into action. That’ll work well. I better enjoy it while it lasts.


  5. Charlottedawg

    Amateurism – a world where Todd Grantham making a million dollars is perfectly justifiable but Todd Gurley making $3000 Is morally reprehensible.


    • As somebody pointed out here previously – look up the reason for why the system of amateurism came to be in the UK and US and it really does explain a lot about the current system (i.e. redirect all the funds from the people that actually create the value to those that don’t because they might spend it on tattoos or Xboxes or whatever other stupid things people say college athletes will spend money on because – ya know – it’s our American duty to judge how one man spends his hard earned money).

      Amateurism’s origin is purely based on classism and racism. Rich college kids didn’t want to suffer the indignity of losing to the poor and minorities. They created amateurism as a way to avoid playing them as the poor and minorities had to be professionals because they couldn’t afford to go to college either due to cost or lost wages. Professionalism afforded them the ability to make a buck while participating in sports on the weekends or on their days off from work.


      • +1000 – I too have been beating this drum for awhile. Our brand of amateurism was inspired by the British and Olympic systems. Only a “true” sportsman who competes for the “love” of sport was allowed to participate.

        Almost every major athletic sports governing body has abandoned amateurism as the primary requirement for competition except for the NCAA.


  6. dawgfan

    The President of UK received a raise in 2016 from $535,000 to $790,000. The head basketball coach at UK still makes over eight times what he does. Maybe these athletic departments should be called businesses instead of non-profits.


    • My observation from downtown Nashville last week: if you can inspire over half the Commonwealth of Kentucky to uproot on Tuesday and move to the SEC tournament site ($300 a night at the Hyatt Place) waiting to see a ballgame on Friday, maybe you are putting out a product that justifies that kind of compensation. I personally don’t think so, but folks in Kentucky don’t seem to have many complaints.


  7. Governor Milledge

    I cannot imagine UGA Athletics ever contributing mid eight figures, like UK has, towards anything academic related whatsoever. #reservefund


    • Cousin Eddie

      My thought was somewhat the same, how can UK do that while seemingly staying solvent while McG struggles with building items that are deemed as needs?


  8. Macallanlover

    “all 2006 salary figures have been adjusted for inflation” OK, if it is the silly CPI numbers the government have doctored and feeds us, that cannot be much because it reflects pretty much nothing significant since the Carter administration. If it is real inflation, or the astronomical explosion in collegiate coaching salaries since 2006, we are talking some real inflation, the kind most Americans can relate to.

    Had no idea the salaries in minor sports had risen so much. See a lot on HCs at football and basketball, even S&C coaches associated with the sport of football but man, soccer, gymnastics, golf, women’s volleyball, etc. is eye opening. Thanks for the info.


  9. AusDawg85

    A lot to unpack here. First, the obligatory “I see the Senator is beating that horse again. Give us some workout QBR rating video update thingys!!!”

    Next, I wonder if Mr. Kessler will disclose his hard won earnings by the time this is done? Yeah, yeah…it’s his incentive to take on the man in the name of the children. Wait…isnt’ that the other sides argument? Confusing.

    Finally, if the wealth is properly redistributed to the “professional” athletes, then Pandora’s box is really wide open. Who signs a compensation contract for a 17 year old? Can they get legal advice? Is the value of the scholarship to be included as part of the compensation? How much of the compensation is taxable? The list goes on and on.

    Sadly, the supposed adult leaders of the NCAA…you, know, the school presidents themselves, are the ones responsible for protecting the interest of the student athletes. Amazing how they’ve let money corrupt. Instead of leading, they are hiding in the shadows and letting Emmert take the heat. Why are they not taking more heat over this? (I know…money from donors who build pretty new admin buildings as long as the football team is winning.)

    As a child I sure enjoyed Fall Saturday afternoons (and they were AFTER noon!) sitting in Sanford and cheering for the Red & Black. The game, the pageantry, the fans, the Posse’s coke and bbq sandwich, the C&S bank mini-footballs, etc. I never thought about the abuse on their bodies and time the players endured. Now that I’ve seen the sausage making, I’m a lot less hungry.



  10. Dog in Fla

    “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.”

    IANAL– I am not a lawyer. Almost always followed by a mistaken interpretation of law. (h/t Balloon Juice Lexicon)


  11. South FL Dawg

    Count me in the group that knows the NCAA is a sham. Not the kids that play. Follow the money.

    Take this quote: “In the US, the companies that do the best pay the most money. It’s fundamental.” OK fine, tell me WHO gets paid? In a privately owned company the owner pays himself which he’s entitled to for owning the business, and in a public company you have stockholders. With a public university it’s taxpayer money and if the guys running things are paying themselves, that’s at best financial mismanagement.

    Heck even if it were the same thing as a company, I thought everybody knew that executive pay packages stink to high heaven.

    However, what would happen if any of these athletic assn’s were really companies? Dollars to donuts somebody would swoop in, buy it, and tell the overpaid management team to hit the road.


  12. Mayor

    In your heart you know he’s FOS.


  13. 92 grad

    Oy. Brings me back to my same position. These tv/media checks that every school gets (sec, et. al) arrived and all of a sudden they have to liquidate many millions. I really think that the athletic depts. need to go back a decade, sensible budgets set, and all the rest of the money should go to the university at large. There’s way too much money being thrown at the AD and where there’s smoke there will be fire, everywhere, eventually, the system will get corrupt. Remember, people suck. We can’t be trusted with that much money and nowhere to put it.