Friday, December 05, 2008

Misplaced Values

Let the record show that the highest paid public employees in the state are not its public health doctors, not its Supreme Court Justices, not its university presidents and certainly not its governor.

No, the highest paid state employees are the football coaches at its Division 1A universities. They make more than twice as much as the university presidents.

Defenders argue that the football programs are self-supporting, with revenues coming from fans, patrons, broadcasting rights and commercial deals.

But critics like me say it’s a question of values. If you love your university, in the name of wisdom, truth and knowledge, give to its professors and students.

The whole collegiate sports scene has gone over the top, distorting the perception of our universities and their values.

Fortunately, many on the campuses are fighting back. The Coalition on Collegiate Athletics is one of the groups leading the charge.

Here's some of what they are up against.

We learn today — another day of dire economic suffering across this land — that the University of Oregon has agreed to have its new coach-in-waiting, Chip Kelly, make $7 million over five years, plus bonuses of an undetermined amount.

According to this morning's Oregonian, the Duck’s current coach, Mike Bellotti, raked in more than $1.9 million last year. (Be sure to read the comments after The Oregonian story for the flavor of fan support.)

Kelly’s and Bellotti’s bonuses require higher math to determine. They are tied to ticket sales, numbers of televised games, participations in Conference and BCS champions, regular season victories, coaching honors (question: is there an honor for most grotesque compensation package?) and final national rankings.

Oh, and there are incentives for graduation success rates, academic progress rate and scholarship student grade-point averages. Presumably these are measured by grades on the transcripts of “scholar” athletes and not on the old transcripts of the coaches themselves. (“Hey, coach, what was your GPA?”)

A modest suggestion. The universities of this state should follow the example of Honda, which has announced that it is dropping Formula One racing because of the hard times.

With more and more kids unable to pay for college, it’s time to dump football, at least football that has become nothing more than entertainment and has zilch to do with education.

Quick math. If it costs $30,000 for a year’s tuition at a state university, then the pay of just one head football coach (think of the salaries of a whole staff of them) would pay the tuition for 50 students now unable to go to school.

It's time for a values shift regarding what our universities really stand for and why we should support them.

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