College football coaches continue to enjoy mounting compensation, with 42 of them making at least $2 million a season, a trend that shows no sign of slowing, according to SI.com. That is more than a 70 percent increase since 2006. The highest paid is Nick Saban, Alabama's coach, at $5.5 million. He is among the top eight in the powerful Southeastern Conference.
The Associated Press added kerosene to the fire when it reported that annual spending by public universities in the six big conferences like the Southeastern Conference and Big 12 has passed $100,000 per athlete -- six to 12 times the amount those institutions are spending per-student on academics.
"University presidents are red-faced," one top educator said. Many critics believe that successful football coaches have more sway with governing boards than college and university presidents. Despite the perception, I disagree.
But I do believe that university presidents have the right to expect strong trustee backing when they set out to right apparent and egregious wrongs. The queried CEOs agreed. The truth is presidents and chancellors do have considerable power, but their tenure is, on average, short -- little more than eight years. And remember, virtually all of them assumed their roles for academic reasons, not to preside over athletic programs, and they are often ill prepared to do so. At the same time, many board members who are fixated on football success have longer tenure than campus presidents.
Successful football programs do build substantial loyalty among many alumni, students and fans, and they do open doors to potential givers to the universities. Sometimes major gifts go for academic purposes.
But modern-day college athletic programs are complex and defy simplistic remedies; they are a combination of academics, entertainment, business, sports, societal values and sometimes -- childlike pride. Exchanges between energetic fans and cerebral professors often turn ugly.
But much is amuck, according to the 12 respected presidents/chancellors, and on that I wholeheartedly agree.
Budig was president of West Virginia University and two other major universities.