Why go to college? Is it for the sports? Or is it for the
education? Though some young people might be tempted to choose
extracurricular activities as a main draw, universities themselves
should know better.
The purpose of a university education is to gain professional
skills and to cultivate a love for learning - tools that will
ultimately help carry us through life. In a world that has become
increasingly dependent on technology, information, and clear
communication, American universities cannot afford to falter on
And yet, schools are paying outrageous compensation to the
coaches of their football and basketball teams, corrupting their
At schools with big-time programs, the head coaches' salaries far
exceed the pay of any other university employee, even the school
A quick Internet search reveals that around 21 colleges pay their
head football coach more than $2 million per year. One assistant
football coach at the University of Tennessee makes more than $1
million per year. Coaches at many large public universities make
more than the presidents of the universities, and many times the
salary of any faculty members.
What does this say about the schools' values?
The money paid to athletic coaches could have gone to scholars,
teachers, or facilities that advance the universities' broad
educational goals. Instead it went to coaches of what are, in many
cases, semiprofessional football and basketball teams. And these
teams' relationships with the schools is merely nominal because so
many team members enroll in the schools for the purpose of playing
on the teams, not, as other students do, to graduate and participate
in a broad array of school activities.
Advocates of high pay to coaches might argue that pay is not a
matter of concern because it is determined by the market. They might
also argue that prospective students are attracted to schools with
good sports teams and in order to attract students you need to
attract good coaches.
But university policies should not be dictated by the market,
because universities protect goods that are not valued by the
market. There may not be a great market demand for scholars of
philosophy, history, linguistics, or poetry, but that does not mean
that those areas should not be developed by universities.
Defenders also insist that coaches - unlike the professors of
philosophy, linguistics, and poetry - make money for the university
by running successful programs that generate income from fans and
That may be so (although how much, when all of the costs are
accounted for, is a matter of debate), but curbing coaches'
outrageous pay would hardly slow down this revenue stream.
So long as all colleges and universities act together or are
placed under the same restrictions, then none will be at a
disadvantage to the others, and the overall profitability of college
sports will not suffer. …