Okay, I love my alma mater and I was as proud as anyone when its men's basketball team made the Final Four a few years back, but I cannot say that I'm at all happy that according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch GMU's new basketball coach, Paul Hewitt, is the highest paid state employee in Virginia while the school's president, Alan Merten, is the 11th highest paid. I'm not gonna argue whether or not anyone working at a state university should be among the highest paid employees in the state, but I am gonna argue that there's no way a coach should make more than the school's president.
The way big time college sports work I'm willing to bet that Hewitt's state salary is probably a small part of his overall income package – who knows what he's getting from endorsements and other sources, but I'm willing to bet it's more than the almost $660k the state is paying him. (Looky here, thanks to a link at the GMU Hoops blog we can see that the coach is getting $7.5 million over five years thanks to his severance package from Georgia Tech). Major college sports like football and basketball generate a lot of income and, right or wrong, the coaches are able to make a great living regardless of their base salary, so it's ludicrous to have a coach making more in salary than the person in charge of the whole educational enterprise. After all there wouldn't be a team without the school right?
You don't have to be an expert on the college sports industry – and that's what it is, an industry – to know that it's seriously out of whack. I love what the teams can bring to the campus in terms of school spirit and alumni engagement, but I don't think you have to have a multi-million dollar enterprise to get what I think are those core benefits. College sports have become a big business and in the process they've totally skewed the priorities on campus. WTH kind of signal are we sending our kids when we tell them that running one sports team with 12+ kids on it is worth more than running an entire university that serves over 32,500 students on mutliple campuses?
I'd hate to think what we'd be paying a football coach if we had more than a club team.