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Million Dollar Coaches

Both the football coach and the basketball coach at the University of Maryland will each receive more than a million dollars in compensation this year, reports the Washington Post.

“It’s a goal of Maryland athletics to be competitive in compensation for highly achieving coaches,” Maryland Athletic Director Deborah A. Yow said. “In that regard, the compensation that’s paid to both Coach Friedgen and Coach Williams is market-driven, and it’s within the norm received by their peers. . . .

“There’s a philosophical question: Is any coach worth being paid seven figures? That’s a separate conversation than the reality of: Are we or are we not going to be competitive? I’m not mired in that philosophical question.”

I’m not mired in it either. I would have thought that coaches get paid the market rate. What’s interesting is why the market rate is so high. It’s high because colleges make a lot of money off of basketball and football either directly in the form of revenue or advertising. In a different world, much of that profitability would be dissipated in the form of salaries for the players, but the NCAA forbids such payments beyond tuition, room and board, books, fees and a very small stipend called laundry money. So schools compete in other ways. They build fancy stadiums and hire skilled staff to attract the best players. If you can’t pay ’em, you try and find other ways to get them to come. In a different world, where the NCAA didn’t restrict athlete salaries to zero, coaches would make a lot less.

Joel Cohen, a mathematics professor and the chair of the faculty senate, said the numbers are not particularly surprising, and the fact that coaches earn far more than professors long predates Williams and Friedgen. Still, he said he occasionally hears the topic discussed in faculty lounges and lunch rooms.

“I think there’s still a lot of angst among faculty about what this means,” Cohen said. “What does it say about the whole commercialization of the school? I think you’ll find a lot of people — not just faculty, but a lot of people, including athletic directors — who would love it somehow if all the coaches got half as much as they’re getting.”

I don’t think he means that the money would then be freed up to go to the students. He seems to be implying that faculty believe that somehow, the university would be a better place if coaches just made less money. I guess some faculty are mired in that philosophical issue that the athletic director has escaped. I wonder if they think the university would be a better place if faculty took a 50% pay cut.

Here’s an earlier piece of mine on the peculiar world of college sports.