Why should Notre Dame's football coach make more than tenured professors?
Coaches' salaries are outrageous. If universities won't cap them and return to their mission of higher learning, then Congress should step in.
Why go to college? Is it for the sports? Or is it for the education? Though some young people might be tempted to choose extracurricular activities as a main draw, universities themselves should know better.Skip to next paragraph
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The purpose of a university education is to gain professional skills and to cultivate a love for learning – tools that will ultimately help carry us through life. In a world that has become increasingly dependent on technology, information, and clear communication, American universities cannot afford to falter on this.
And yet, schools are paying outrageous compensation to the coaches of their football and basketball teams, corrupting their mission.
At schools with big-time programs, the head coaches' salaries far exceed the pay of any other university employee, even the school president.
A quick Internet search reveals that around 21 colleges pay their head football coach more than $2 million per year. One assistant football coach at the University of Tennessee makes more than $1 million per year. Coaches at many large public universities make more than the presidents of the universities, and many times the salary of any faculty members.
What does this say about the schools' values?
The money paid to athletic coaches could have gone to scholars, teachers, or facilities that advance the universities' broad educational goals. Instead it went to coaches of what are, in many cases, semiprofessional football and basketball teams. And these teams' relationships with the schools is merely nominal because so many team members enroll in the schools for the purpose of playing on the teams, not, as other students do, to graduate and participate in a broad array of school activities.
Advocates of high pay to coaches might argue that pay is not a matter of concern because it is determined by the market. They might also argue that prospective students are attracted to schools with good sports teams and in order to attract students you need to attract good coaches.
But university policies should not be dictated by the market, because universities protect goods that are not valued by the market. There may not be a great market demand for scholars of philosophy, history, linguistics, or poetry, but that does not mean that those areas should not be developed by universities.
Defenders also insist that coaches – unlike the professors of philosophy, linguistics, and poetry – make money for the university by running successful programs that generate income from fans and alumni.
That may be so (although how much, when all of the costs are accounted for, is a matter of debate), but curbing coaches' outrageous pay would hardly slow down this revenue stream.
So long as all colleges and universities act together or are placed under the same restrictions, then none will be at a disadvantage to the others, and the overall profitability of college sports will not suffer. If anything, it will rise.