Monday, April 2, 2007

Salary Inflation Hits Home

Adrian Wojarowski of Yahoo sports has some telling words about spiralling coaches salaries in a recent Column:

Now it isn't even basketball schools that are spending like crazy to build winning programs. Until Billy Gillespie arrived three years ago, Texas A&M's chancellor didn't know the Aggies had a basketball team. Just Friday, they announced his new $1.7 million-a-year contract. "While it's embarrassing for me to be compensated so well to perform my passion for a school I love …" started a statement from Gillespie, and well, he really isn't too embarrassed, is he?

More than Kentucky paying $3 million a year, it's Quinnipiac paying $300,000. Connecticut's Tom Moore had been an assistant for Jim Calhoun for 12 years and turned down a lot of small Division I jobs along the way. Before him, Moore watched Calhoun's assistants get DePaul and George Washington. He no sooner would have taken the Quinnipiac job than tell Calhoun to sit down and shut up as he berated his coaches on the bench.

Well, Quinnipiac built a $55 million gym, and just guaranteed Moore $1.5 million over the next five years, so there he was, working through the Hilton lobby Friday, leaving the Big East for the Northeast Conference.

"I was obviously pleasantly surprised when they started talking about figures in that vicinity," Moore said. "I think it's great for the whole league because every time a school in the league sets the bar high, I think everyone else tries to raise their level, too."

Is the world a better place if St. Francis (Pa.) and Monmouth want to ante up on winning programs? Really? Moore interviewed for five openings last year and heard two university presidents ask him: "How can we become the next George Mason?"

Here's the answer: You don't, so get over yourself. This is the voodoo economics of college basketball, the trickle down from Kentucky to Quinnipiac. NCAA president Myles Brand threw up his hands this week and said that the NCAA could do nothing to stop the runaway salaries in his sport. As history has shown, the bigger the rewards, the bigger the corruption. Cheating never has been so sophisticated in the sport, and the money changing hands has never been worse. Ask any coach in a private moment and he'll just shake his head and sigh. Most know they're living in a house of cards, and it all can come crashing down at anytime.

But they'll run the risk because one guaranteed contract, and maybe one extension, makes them multimillionaires for life.

The latest contracted multimillionaire is none other than SIU Carbondale's own Chris Lowery, whose seven-year, $750,000/year contract extension was announced yesterday.

The denizens of Saluki Nation are ecstatic that SIUC has managed to keep a coach who is, at the ripe old age of 34, both a veteran coach and one of the brightest rising stars in the coaching cadre.

As is our new Athletic Director 'Super Mario' Mocca:

Director of Athletics Mario Moccia said the contract sends a strong message about the University's commitment to keeping the 34-year-old head coach, who has been the youngest head coach in the NCAA Tournament each of the last three years.

"Our basketball program is not only a vital part of the athletic department, it's also a critical component of the University as a whole," Moccia said. "Given Coach Lowery's track record as a head coach, we felt it was essential to retain him. It gives our athletic program and our University the opportunity to expand their horizons."

As is SIU President Glenn Poshard:

"The success that he's shown, being the winningest coach in SIU history over the first three years that he's coached, he's deserving," Poshard said. "I know there's a lot of folks that think it's a lot of money and so on, but this is market demand. That's the way you have to deal with it if you want a good program."
As is Missouri Valley Conference Commish Doug Elgin:
"I think it is a statement of how committed Southern Illinois is to keeping its basketball program at a very high level," Missouri Valley Conference commissioner Doug Elgin said. "There's no question that this does send that message."
Do not get me wrong, I am delighted for Chris, who performs admirably in all three of the areas which should be demanded of coaches - he graduates his players, serves as an excellent ambassador for the University, and wins. At the same time, it is clear that the voodoo economics of College Basketball which Wojarowski decries has arrived at SIUC. Whether I should actually be delighted for the University is an open question.

At a University where, for the last year, the faculty and staff have been asked to both look for savings and prepare for future cuts, it is only natural that there was considerable grumbling in the hallways today about where the money for Lowery's half-million/year raise is coming from. Both AD Mocca and SIU President Glenn Poshard have been cagey on this question. The Southern Illinoisan reported:
Poshard said he did not know how much of Lowery's salary would be paid by public funds, but that several donors apparently helped make the deal easier for SIU to offer.
And according to our student newspaper the Daily Egyptian:
Athletic Director Mario Moccia said "a lot of the money" for Lowery's raise in pay will come from private donors, some of which he is meeting with in Atlanta, where he is with Lowery for the NCAA Final Four.

"All along we talked about targeting new sources of revenue like those floor seats, but in addition private money by individuals," Moccia said. "There's a big outpouring of support to keep coach Lowery among alumni, certainly during our run to NCAA Tournament, and a lot of those folks had pledged to assist in the ability to keep him."
Fine. The question for Dr. Poshard is why he has not been able to tap any donors for the bargain $2 million which will be required to complete the seventh and eighth floors of the library. Should that not be a higher priority than keeping a coach for an extra $3.5 million?

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