In a day when colleges and universities are cutting back, when education is devalued at the expense of sports, we have this story reminding us how much money is poured down the drain in severance packages:
For an especially lucrative occupation, one might consider becoming a fired college football coach.
The latest symbol of the college football arms race is not the coaches’ salaries themselves but rather the money that university officials are spending to buy out those huge contracts when a coach falters.
After Tennessee fired its coach last week, the university’s chancellor said the athletic department would forgo $18 million in contributions it was to make to the university over the next three years for academic scholarships and fellowship programs. Instead, some of the money will be used to pay the severance packages of the coach, Derek Dooley, who is owed $5 million, and his staff, which is owed a reported $4 million if it is not retained. Dooley had four years remaining on his contract.
On Sunday, Auburn fired its coach, Gene Chizik, two seasons after the Tigers went unbeaten and won the national championship. Auburn said it owed $11 million in buyouts to its coaching staff, including $7.5 million to Chizik, who had three years left on his contract. He is to be paid $208,334 a month for the next 36 months. The money could have been used to fund other sports.
“It’s shameful,” said Raymond D. Sauer, chairman of the department of economics at Clemson University and president of the North American Association of Sports Economists. “We can understand the market forces at work, but all that money being burned up that way is a high cost of doing business.”
Sauer said there was “a gusher of money” in the Southeastern Conference. “But it’s limited,” he added.
Coaches’ salaries have soared in recent years at colleges throughout the country, often reaching several million dollars a year, as university officials have intensified efforts to claim some of the sport’s growing riches that come from billion-dollar television contracts, merchandise sales and alumni contributions. But college officials do not seem encumbered by the large contracts; rather, they appear willing to pay the coaches handsomely to go away and make room for new hires — despite little evidence that coaching changes generally result in better teams.