Who reigns supreme at university campuses? How do these deities lord their power?
USA Today sets out on a quest to get answers to these central questions. The answers are: “coaching gods” and “badly” in a Dec. 29 article, “Coaches and Power: How much is too much?” written by Steve Wieberg.
It’s a story that sounds a lot like New York Times bestselling author Rick Riordan’s series based on Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythological gods. Many of the same storylines appear. Meddlesome all-powerful figures behave badly, cause a huge, messy tragedy, and what’s right and what’s wrong in the world hang in the balance.
At least in Riordan’s entertaining novels, a young hero always emerges to save the mortals from certain destruction. Who will rescue American universities subjugated by a football coach the likes of Penn State’s Joe Paterno? USA Today fails to explore the answer to this question in the article, although many university administrators recognize the colossal struggle. By going unanswered, it sounds like coaching gods will be coaching gods and university empires will be doomed to suffer forever.
Wieberg writes that Paterno’s giant shadow in Happy Valley and questionable actions following allegations of child abuse by assistant coach Jerry Sandusky has “called new attention to the coaches who remain deities on their campuses and in their states, parlaying success, fame and indispensability into power—and to the ability of their bosses to keep them reined in.”
Coaches have the upper hand given annual salaries that range from $2.9 million (Mark Richt, Georgia) to $5.2 million (Mack Brown, Texas) for the top 10 highest paid college football coaches and $2.2 million (Rick Barnes, Texas) to $7.5 million (Rick Pitino, Louisville) for the top 10 highest paid college basketball coaches, USA Today reports.
In fact, Ohio State’s new football coach Urban Meyer will rake in $4 million a year and can make an additional $2.4 million in bonuses. Compare that to the university’s Gordon Gee, who is the nation’s highest paid public college president at $1.3 million.
Besides their worship by fans, USA Today also points out that coaches rule by pulling in millions and millions of donations and making millions more in profit from their success on the playing field.
USA Today gave the last word to former UCLA chancellor and Florida president Charles Young. In retirement, Young remains a member of the reform-minded Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.
Young told the newspaper: “I think there are incorruptible people. They’re few and far between, and not too many of them are football coaches or basketball coaches.”
Read the entire USA Today story, “Coaches and Power: How much is too much?” by clicking here. Also worth reading are accompanying profiles on the power exerted by Connecticut basketball coach Jim Calhoun, Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo and LSU football coach Les Miles at their respective universities.
Duwayne Escobedo is the Director of Communications at the United States Sports Academy. Previously, he spent more than two decades as a sports writer, political columnist, investigative reporter and editor for various media outlets.