College athletic directors—why is the pay so high?

Posted: 20 March 2013 in Uncategorized
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We’ve just learned that nine athletic directors of major college-sports programs make more than $1 million annually, with an average salary of about $515,000. They include:

Tom Jurich, at Louisville ($1.4-million); Jeremy Foley, at Florida ($1.2-million); Barry Alvarez, at Wisconsin ($1.2-million); Shawn Eichorst, at Nebraska ($1.1-million); DeLoss Dodds, at Texas ($1.1-million); Gene Smith, at Ohio State ($1.1-million); Jack Swarbrick, at Notre Dame (slightly more than $1-million); and Joe Castiglione, at Oklahoma ($1-million). Topping the list was Vanderbilt’s David Williams II, at $3.2-million. Mr. Williams is vice chancellor for university affairs and athletics, as well as a tenured law professor.

Why is their pay so high? According to Patrick Hruby,

Athletic directors themselves offer a variety of reasons. They manage $100 million budgets and megabuck media and licensing contracts. They oversee dozens of teams. They hire and fire coaches, cope with scandals, navigate byzantine NCAA rules. Most importantly, they raise money. As Vanderbilt vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletics director David Williams — a member of the $1 million-plus club — once told USA Today Sports, “if someone says what should I go learn to train to be this, I’d say go spend a year in law school, a year in business school and a year over in the college of education, and then take some communications stuff. And then get yourself a big old box of aspirin.”

Also speaking to USA Today Sports, Louisville’s Jurich was succinct. “I know one thing,” he said. “The ADs around the country are earning their money.” Well, sure. Athletic directors work hard. The job is demanding and requires a wide range of administrative and interpersonal skills. On the other hand, so does being an inner-city school principal, or a day care manager, or the chief executive of a large charity. Everyone with a job that doesn’t involve theft or embezzlement earns their money. So never mind Jurich’s self-serving platitudes. The question remains: why are athletic directors earning so much money? And the answer is simple.

When you don’t have to pay competitive wages for your actual workforce, there’s a lot more cash available to shower upon high-level bureaucrats.

Come to think of it, why should collegiate sports be any different from the rest of contemporary capitalism?

  1. Marie says:

    I work as a Lecturer at a major State U with a pretty awful football team (one year they didn’t win a single game). Nevertheless, the university felt the need to build a brand-new stadium, spent countless millions re-branding itself, and hired a new football coach who is paid more than half a million a year. Meanwhile, my dept. is staffed with many many contingent instructors who are paid 2,100 per course to teach all the introductory courses TT professors feel are beneath them.

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