Much has been written about the fact that a majority of college football coaches at the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) level earn more money than do the presidents at their schools. Indeed, last season the average salary for the 121 BCS football coaches was just over $900,000 per year. It is also true that many of the 345 Division I men’s basketball coaches earn more than their presidents do.
In a recent story published by USA Today, we now learn that school athletic directors also frequently earn more money than school presidents. Athletics directors at schools in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision (excluding four that moved up to the FBS in 2012) make an average salary of roughly $515,000, up more than 14% since USA TODAY Sports last looked at AD compensation in October 2011.
The USA Today story focuses on Eric Hyman, the AD at Texas A&M. Hyman started out his working career as a graduate assistant in the 1970s at Furman. He earned $200 per month and worked at outside jobs such as being a dean at an area community college and painting houses to make ends meet.
Today at age 62 Hyman has a base salary of just over $800,000 and can earn another $200,000 this year in bonuses. Meanwhile the school’s president, R. Bowen Loftin, told USA Today that he earns $525,000 annually and in 2012 received a $20,000 bonus. Tom Jurich at Louisville earns $1.4 million per year, the highest salary among public school athletic directors.
Mal Moore is the AD at Alabama, whose football team has won 3 of the last 4 BCS national championships. Last season the Tide also won national championships in women’s gymnastics, women’s golf and softball. Its men’s golf team finished second in the country. Moore earns just under $500,000, a figure that places him 11th among the 14 athletic directors in the Southeastern Conference.
All this comes at a time when academic spending at many schools is declining or not increasing at the same pace as athletics spending, according to a recent report by the Delta Cost Project at the non-profit American Institutes for Research that was based on data from the Education Department and data collected by USA TODAY Sports for its annual College Athletics Finances Database.
It is true that athletic directors of large athletic programs are the CEOs of multi-million dollar businesses. They oversee a staff that can number in the hundreds. They are actively involved in fundraising, facilities planning, advertising and compliance with NCAA rules. If a school’s teams do not win this can result in lower revenues for the athletic department. This in turn can lead to an AD losing his or her job.
According the USA Today, the salaries for BCS School ADs have risen by some 14% in the past 18 months. Some of them are now earning more money than CEOs of some Fortune 500 companies. This new reality is just mind boggling in an era of tight government budgets and forced cutbacks at colleges and universities across the country.
One has to wonder where all of this is going in the next few years. We constantly hear leaders such as NCAA President Mark Emmert talk about the need to control the so-called “arms race” in college athletics. State legislatures continue to hold the line on support for higher education. At many schools faculty and administrators have not had across-the-board raises in five years. Yet in the fantasy world of big-time college sports it is business as usual. This is true despite the fact that of the 125 BCS schools this year (four more schools joined this academic year) only around 20 of them actually show a profit for their athletic departments.
State governments are required by law to balance their budgets. Yet schools with large athletic departments continue to spend more and more money. We are told that success in athletics leads to increases in enrollments and in giving to schools. If this is true then why do schools across the country continue to struggle financially?
We also have to remember that it is school ADs who agree to pay football and men’s basketball coaches’ astronomical salaries. John Calapari earns over $5 million per year to coach Kentucky basketball. Nick Saban earns some $5.5 million per year as the Alabama football coach. Even at a school such as Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) the football and men’s basketball coaches earn almost a half million dollars per year. It is the athletic director who is at the center of the fantasy world that is college athletic finances.
There are no signs that anyone is seriously interested in changing the system we now have. So the next you plunk down a few thousand dollars to buy 4 season tickets for football games or pay $200 for 4 tickets to one of your school’s men’s basketball games don’t complain. These costs are necessary so that the AD at your school can live like a Wall Street tycoon.
Let’s hope that the bubble doesn’t burst anytime soon.
Greg Tyler is the Library Director at the United States Sports Academy. He has also taught courses at the Academy in sports law. He worked for years in youth sports as a coach, league administrator and as a soccer referee. He has a law degree and practiced law for a number of years. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.