All of which brings us back, of course, to the original point, which is that college athletics have very little to do with college. At least that's true from a financial perspective.
I bring up all of these ridiculous coaches' salaries - and be honest, in any framework they are ridiculous - not as a means to argue for or against them, but to illustrate how completely and utterly disconnected they are from the university itself and the budget issues it faces. Fact: WVU's budget includes nothing going to Holgorsen or Huggins. Holgorsen's base pay is $200,000. Huggins' is $250,000. The rest is supplemental pay generated through athletic department revenues and the Mountaineer Athletic Club.
None of it, not even the base pay, comes out of that $900 million university budget.
And that's the point. The two entities are, at least from a financial standpoint, tied together in name only. The athletic department pays its own bills, from coaching salaries to heating and plumbing for its buildings and, yes, even to paying the university for the scholarships it gives to its athletes. It's not a matter of bookkeeping, where money is just shifted around on paper. It's actual cash that the athletic department generates and, in the case of scholarships and room and board for athletes, pays to the university.
Is that right? Well, yes and no. Yes because if a school is going to have a multi-million-dollar athletic department it should pay its own way. Despite that $13 million loss last year, WVU's athletic department has almost always managed to do that. Within a few years, thanks to payments from the Big 12, the department will more than pay its way again.
The flip side, though, is that it's just all become so ridiculous, fielding teams and paying coaches nearly 100 times what an average university employee makes. But that's not news, folks, and it's not something you can change by waving a wand and saying it's not fair. Don't live in a bubble and think that what is happening at WVU is any different than at any other major college. The truth is, WVU's athletic budget isn't even close to that of some of the schools in its own conference. The fact that West Virginia generally manages to run things without much of a deficit actually puts them in a minority.
Is it right that WVU employees and students are being taxed, in essence, for a budget shortfall while the athletic department continues to spend? Of course not. It flies in the face of everything that collegiate athletics should be about.
But the truth is, athletic departments already do a lot for their universities. Does anyone really think any college's enrollment would be what it is if top-flight athletic teams not a part of the draw? As a general rule, they get that perk at no financial cost to the universities themselves.
But maybe it's also time to give back a little more. You can't start cutting coaching salaries and slowing down the expansion of facilities because (again, contrary to what should be a school's mission) athletic departments are in an arms race. Take a million bucks here or there away and you fall behind, interest wanes and suddenly your athletic department isn't the drawing card schools hope it will be.
But when times are good, as they should be for WVU's athletic department once it begins getting full revenue shares from the Big 12, perhaps some of that extra cash needs to go where the university needs it most. And that's not athletics.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.