Great News for Cash-Strapped Universities

Over at the University of Virginia, Professor Al Groh

has agreed to a deal that runs through Dec. 31, 2010, and includes a rollover provision that could extend his tenure well past that date. The contract, which was signed this month, boosts his annual compensation to $1.7 million for the coming year — $240,000 in base salary and $1.46 million for services that include fundraising work, radio and TV appearances and product endorsements.

By 2010, Groh may be making significantly more than $1.7 million. Athletic Director Craig Littlepage said Groh is eligible for a 5 percent cost-of-living increase that would be applied to his total compensation package annually. By the 2010 season, then, Groh’s annual package may be worth around $2.17 million.

At Virginia Tech, Professor Frank Beamer is renegotiating his paltry $1.3 million annual salary and is also fighting to increase the salaries of the adjunct professors who teach sections of his class. Nine of them are forced to subsist on $1.1 million.

Look, I love a good college football game as much as the next guy. But when I see these salary wars while university presidents bemoan their appropriations and raise tuition (which includes a fee that goes to athletics), I want to tell the hat-in-hand higher education lobby to “shut up.”

Voters, citizens, taxpayers, whatever you want to call them, are voting on their priorities with their dollars. The higher education lobby ought to be going to the football programs for more money, not the legislature.

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  1. Not Guy Incognito Avatar
    Not Guy Incognito

    One problem, Virginia law prohibits public colleges and universities from using tuition dollars or state funds to support intercollegiate athletics. All money for these programs must be raised from student fees, ticket sales, media revenues, product sales, licensing agreements, user fees and private donations.

    UVA is actually below the state average in student fees (the highest? VMI) Tech is as well. Hmmm what’s going on here? Looks like the exorbitant salaries aren’t actually spilling over onto the students!

  2. GOPHokie Avatar

    Yea I thought those salaries are paid by the atheletic departments, which are seperate budgets from the general fund of the university.

  3. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Oh, I know the explanation that intercollegiate athletics is “separate.” Who does the athletic director work for?

    Some years ago I was the RT-D “Correspondent of the Day” for a letter in which I proposed that big-time football and basketball programs be de-coupled from universities. The “Virginia Tech Athletic Club” would be formed. They would pay the university to use their name and would buy/pay rent on any and all university assets they used. Players need not be university students–they could be paid in salary and/or tuition reimbursement. Student activity fees would not go to them unless it was a voluntary ticket purchase deal.

    When Marcus Vick got arrested, it would be the athletic club answering critics, not Charles Steger.

    I stand by my idea and wish the NCAA would acknowledge reality and endorse for it for Division I schools.

  4. GOPHokie Avatar

    I agree that the university is obviously tied to the athletic program. I’m just saying no taxpayer dollars are going to pay Beamer or Groh, except for the people getting financial aid to pay their athletic fees.
    As to the athletic director, I imagine that is the university’s employee but I don’t know for sure.
    I wish I could remember exactly what President Steger said last year, but he said something about the athletic program becoming an even more seperate entity from the university than it currently is. Whenever I get more info, ill let ya know.

  5. GOPHokie Avatar

    One other thing Will, you have a good idea, but someone already bet you to it. Its called the NBA and NFL.
    If you made these sports programs seperate totally from the universities, they would be just like NBA and NFL teams, free to do whatever they want, as long as its allowed by the rules of the sanctioning body.

  6. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Will, my heart agrees with you. The resources lavished upon college athletics apalls me — even more so if some of those resources come (whether directly or indirectly) from taxpayer dollars. The public interest in supporting higher education is educating the citizenry and providing people with the skills they need to prosper in a globally competitive, knowledge-based economy — not to perpetuate tribal loyalties around athletic totems.

    But I have to say this: Like it or not, there’s nothing like a strong athletic program to generate positive publicity and increase the number of student applications. Athletics, it seems, has quite a halo effect.

  7. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Jim, I agree totally with your second paragraph. That’s why my proposal maintains a link between the university and the “club.” It would still be the Hokies and Cavaliers kicking ACC ass.

    Players would have a choice of being student-athletes, just athletes, or athletes deferring their education.

    Players would be compensated for their hard work. Professor Groh and Professor Beamer shouldn’t be the only ones making a buck.

    With the two major sports removed from university authority, Title IX could be more rationally administered. One possible drawback of my plan would be that to the extent some football and basketball revenues go to support “minor” sports, these minor sports might not be funded as well.

    Of course, the clubs could donate to the university to help support minor sports ….

  8. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Will, your idea is a worthy one. Keep on flogging it — maybe someone will pay attention!

  9. Terry M. Avatar

    Will, the NCAA is getting closer to endorsing your idea. In their last meeting, they voted to include “Students selected as professional draft picks” as valid exclusions from the graduaton rate cohort (the denominator in the formula).

    What this means is that the NCAA is implicitly admitting the collegiate athletics are apprenticeship programs for professional sports.

    And that the completing the degree that the student ostensibly signed up for doesn’t really matter.

    And let’s be clear about state law and funding athletic programs – state funding does indeed support athletic programs in the form of the student subsidy and financial aid at public institutions and TAG at private institutions.

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