The Atlanta Journal Constitution's Tony Barnhart today provides some good commentary about the spending habits of the SEC and its possible repercussions.
The league is about to hit some serious paydirt as it has recently entered into 15-year contracts with ESPN and CBS, which will generate a whopping $3 billion.
I encourage you to go over to his blog and read it.
Some interesting factoids pulled from his posting:
–In January of 2007, Alabama hired Nick Saban as its head football coach for $32 million over eight years.
–After winning the BCS National Championship in January of 2008, LSU football coach Les Miles had his contract redrawn to guarantee that he would be the highest paid football coach in the SEC.
In 2008 Saban made $3.75 million. Miles' contract called for him to make exactly $1,000 more, and that will remain the case during the life of Miles’ five-year contract.
–In 2009, Tennessee athletics director Mike Hamilton pulled out his checkbook to give new head coach Lane Kiffin the all-star staff that he wanted.
That staff, beginning with over $1 million going toward defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, will collectively earn an unprecedented $3.325 million this season.
–Alabama just announced raises for its football staff that will pay them a total of $2.685 million this season. That doesn’t count Saban’s compensation, which will be bumped up to $3.9 million this season.
–Kentucky just made John Calipari the highest paid coach in college basketball history with an eight-year deal for nearly $4 million per season.
Potential bonuses and perks actually push that figure toward $5 million, more than twice what Kentucky head football coach Rich Brooks makes.
As far as to the repercussions of having so much money at the SEC member institutions' disposal, Barnhart gets around to questioning whether it is really such a good thing. First, coaches will be on an incredibly short leash. If a coach does not perform, he's gone and then the university will be saddled with the separation expenses (he points out that Auburn and Tennessee will be paying Tommy Tuberville and Phil Fulmer a combined $11 million to NOT coach). Secondly, with higher salaries come higher expectations.
Personally, I have no problem with the money being made by the league or the amount being dished out to retain the best coaches possible. These guys are paid according to what the high-dollar college football market will bear. While I'm not as in tune with the basketball situation at Kentucky, there's a price to attain and maintain success on the hardwood too.
And make no mistake of thinking that the universities are losing money on the deal. The football programs are producing a major stream of revenue for their respective schools. They provide money for other sports programs as well. See Forbes' September 1, 2008 article "The Most Powerful Coach in Sports" (providing that Alabama's football program generated a profit of $32 million and financed 77% of the athletic department's budget in the previous year). School president Robert Witt also credited football as being the reason for the groundswell of support to the university's $500 million capital campaign.
The economy is bleak and this may be a hard pill to swallow for many academics as universities are cutting jobs. In fact, the University of Alabama just last week announced that it would be cutting approximately 1000 jobs from its system over the next 18 months. But the fact remains that football is giving and not taking anything away from universities' coffers.
The expectations placed on coaches is a different beast. In evaluating SEC football coaches' performance, the crowning achievements are generally considered winning your division (East or West), getting into the SEC Championship Game, a BCS bowl, and then the national title game. Along the way you have to recruit lights out against other coaches who are the best in the business.
That is a big task.
But the real problematic twist to it is that there are 12 teams in the league, 6 in each division. Only 2 of the 12 are going to win a division title, of course only 1 will be crowned league champion (and as of late that team becomes a shoo in for the national title game), and maybe 2 get into a BCS game. Chances are that many coaches will never have a long enough opportunity to achieve any of those goals because patience is not a virtue in this league.
All in all, this is no departure from SEC normalcy. Everyone just needs to put on their big boy britches and enjoy the best damn football in the land!