Sunday, February 24, 2008

IU, or IOU?

The Kelvin Sampson buyout is yet another indicator of the warped economics in DI athletics:

Counting the $750,000 given to Kelvin Sampson to resign, Indiana University has paid more than $4 million since 2000 to coaches and athletic administrators after they left the school.

As one fan noted on an IndyStar .com message board Saturday, perhaps IU should call itself IOU.

Sampson, IU's men's basketball coach until Friday night, is only the latest person to stop working for the school but is still collecting money.

Former Athletic Director Michael McNeely received the most: $839,000. Former men's basketball coach Mike Davis got $800,000.

Some others: former football coach Gerry DiNardo ($616,000), former football coach Cam Cameron ($489,000) and former men's basketball coach Bob Knight ($283,000).

Andrew Zimbalist, a Smith College professor and one of the nation's leading experts on sports economics, said the payments are another sign of how far removed college sports is from the rest of the university.

"This whole thing has spun totally out of control," Zimbalist said. "The economic parameters are way off."

Said IU spokesman Larry MacIntyre: "That's money out of the athletic department and does not involve public funds. It's part of the cost of doing business in college athletics."

Somehow I thought the 'cost of doing business' line would appear at some point in this article. Sad.

Compared to the buyouts of some other schools' coaches, though, IU got off cheap.

In 2006, Alabama paid $4 million to buy out the contract of football coach Mike Shula. Also that year, Minnesota paid a combined $4.9 million to say goodbye to football coach Glen Mason and men's basketball coach Dan Monson.

Sampson had a contract that allowed the university to fire him "for cause" and owe nothing beyond his regular compensation for that month.

But IU officials said they were concerned about a wrongful-termination lawsuit.

With $550,000 of Sampson's buyout coming from an anonymous donor, the officials said the school paid $200,000, making it a smart business deal (although because the donation will go through the IU Foundation, it's considered university money). That's not to mention heading off months of potential acrimony.

Zimbalist, however, had a different view.

"I think it's downright outrageous that people can violate NCAA rules left and right and then walk out with $750,000," he said. "Elsewhere, when you violate the law or the rules, you go to jail or pay a fine."


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