By Zac Ellis
Salaries of college football coaches increase at a much higher rate than those of instructors at the same universities, a new study shows.
Even as many institutions of higher education fight through far-reaching budget cuts, a study by Inside Higher Ed shows that universities with the largest athletic programs are the driving force behind the lopsided trend.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the SEC leads the way in salary discrepancy. The league boasts about a quarter of the country’s 23 athletic programs where revenues actually outpace expenses. Its instructional salaries rose 15.5 percent between 2006-11 ($70,886 to $81,758); SEC football coaching salaries increased 128.9 percent over that same span ($3,147,149 to $6,928,989).
The smallest salary gap belonged to the WAC, "where football salaries rose 46.4 percent, from $1,370,332 to $1,819,845, and instructional paychecks rose 15.2 percent (a faster increase than several other conferences), from $65,038 to $76,533," according to the report.
The study -- co-authored by Scott Hirko, professor of sport management at Central Michigan University; Welch Suggs, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Georgia; and Jeffrey H. Orleans, a senior associate at the intercollegiate athletic consulting firm Alden & Associates -- also shows a strong correlation between the size and success of an athletic program and the salary gap.
When comparing top-tier FBS programs to FCS programs, instructional salaries increased by only 15.8 and 14.14 percent, respectively. At the same time, total coaching salaries in athletics increased by 67.1 and 59.4 percent, and football coaches’ salaries jumped even more significantly, by 80.8 and 61.9 percent.
Hirko told IHE the marketplace sets the price for athletics, and the need to stay competitive is the fuel behind the flame. But college presidents need to sit down and dictate the university's priorities.
“Presidents should really start asking the question, what is the purpose for athletics on my campus…. It’s not happening because they’re caught in the marketplace, which is a self-sustaining prophecy,” Hirko said. “The only way that presidents are going to be able to withstand writing the check is likely going to be to create some form of a coalition.”