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Big Boosters Call The Shots

Plum Diamonds Lab Grown Diamond Rings
Tell us something we don't already know. Is Urban Meyer the next one in the barrel? From the NY Times:

Big Boosters Calling the Shots on Campus
By SELENA ROBERTS

Published: January 2, 2005

HERE is a sticker price for a messiah coach. For $16 million, the University of Florida recently banished Ron Zook with a $1.8 million buyout, paid the Utah Utes what amounted to a savior transfer fee of $250,000 and committed $14 million over seven years for Urban Meyer to compete with Steve Spurrier's visorly ghost.

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Then the salary cloning began. Now there are messiahs everywhere, with Mack Brown on the verge of receiving a 10-year, $26 million validation hug from Texas, with Auburn's Tommy Tuberville agreeing to a $16 million makeup kiss after boosters plotted to fire him last season, with each man joining nearly a dozen others in the expanding $2 million club of college football coaches.

The excessive trash of the "College Coeds Gone Wild" video has been exceeded by the obscene state spending of "College Caretakers Gone Loony."

Were the Gators the careless triggermen or innocent market victims?

"I'm sure some will say Florida is the cause," Florida's athletic director, Jeremy Foley, said in a telephone interview, "but Florida didn't set the marketplace."

Was it Notre Dame? The leprechauns were desperately pursuing Meyer with a pot of gold. Was it Louisiana State? The Tigers had established the bar with an $18.45 million deal for Nick Saban only to see him jilt them for a $22.5 million deal in the N.F.L.

Was it Bob Stoops? He sends the Sooners into bake-sale mode every time he winks at another suitor.

The culprit is not the obvious. On the surface, the spiraling salaries seem like a clairvoyant snapshot of the foreboding "arms race" passage authored by the deep thinkers behind the 2001 Knight Commission report.

"Something similar is happening that is more insidious: expectations," Myles Brand, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, said when reached at his office. "In a number of our major institutions with large athletic departments, expectations have become unsustainable."

This pressure is from within. The collegiate marketplace is set by insider ego, the business model operates on the fickleness of rah-rah and athletic departments have become the pawns of chief executive war games.

This is the era of the über-booster. So it's worth asking any messiah coach: who's your sugar daddy?

The most meddling of the boosters aren't the cheap-suit fans tailgating on the back of a Ford pickup; some are Forbes-list executives buying vicarious ownership of their college teams.

Their power to shape a hiring, a firing - and, in some cases, play calling - is the hobgoblin of financial dependency. With broadcast revenue peaking for athletic departments but with salaries expanding, boosters have gladly picked up more of the tab in a bottomless money pit.

In 1997, Gator Boosters Inc. raised $16.2 million in contributions, according to its 990 tax filing, a form used by nonprofit organizations. In 2002, it brought in $23.7 million in public support - or more than a third of Florida's athletic budget.

Many variables influence giving, but Florida State may provide the most direct link between winning and wealth, pride and pocketbook. In the year before Florida State won the 1999 national title, Seminole Boosters Inc. recorded $16.6 million in support. In 2000, contributions jumped to $31.4 million.

What athletic director wouldn't want to please the very folks who are supplementing his salary and the income of coaches while financing scholarships, stadium improvements and recruiting trips, and upgrading cheerleader megaphones?

"The expectations of boosters and trustees are pushing athletic directors for a larger and larger rate of increase in expenditures," Brand said. "And that's where they are getting in trouble."

Some athletic czars are being devoured by their own design. At one point, setting up athletic departments and booster groups as separate nonprofit 501C3 charities seemed ingenious at universities like Clemson, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana State, Florida State and, most recently, Auburn. As if athletic departments weren't already isolated from the university, with athletes existing in their own cultures. As if the greatest charity cause wasn't already luxury-suite lighting, with education as an afterthought. Fans were given a chance to dial-a-donation.

Why give to a university's general fund if you don't care a lick about how many cadavers the science labs have? Why pay for orchestra flutes when you can help develop the next Doug Flutie? Incorporating the booster clubs as fund-raising arms for athletics provided friends of the program a tax break, as well as ticket priorities, parking passes and foam index fingers that indicate "We're No. 1."

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Never mind what this victory-obsessed culture says about society's feel-good-by-crushing-others mentality. As Pierre Ramond, a physics professor and faculty chairman at Florida, wistfully recalled, going to a Gators football game used to be "kind of a quaint, a fun outing, but that was many, many years ago."

There is nothing quaint about the current corporate booster structure. Many of the presidents and officers report six-figure incomes. The president of Seminole Boosters received $221,241 in compensation, according to the organization's 2002 990 tax form.

Booster power only creates ambiguity about who is in charge of the program.

"There is room for problems there, and in some cases, there are problems," Brand said.

Some incorporated clubs give a lump sum to athletic departments without any directive as to how it is to be spent; the Gator Boosters director, John James, says that is how his organization operates.

Other booster groups funnel money as they like. Peek inside some of the 990 tax forms and you'll find autonomy's splendor: In 2002, Louisiana State's Tiger Athletic Foundation paid Saban Enterprises LLC $290,000 for consultant work and provided unspecified coaches with $650,000 in supplements; in 2002, the Ole Miss Loyalty Foundation Inc. directly compensated the football coach David Cutcliffe $737,625, the basketball coach Rod Barnes $585,000 and the athletic director John Shafer $100,000.

Coaches at public universities may seem like state employees, but unofficially they are the kept men of the private donors, particularly of those who give up to seven figures a year to the programs. Some contributors are more than boosters; they are powerful trustees who mistake their gifts for entitlement.

Bobby Lowder fits this profile. He is the Auburn trustee and booster whose plane was used in the infamous tarmac scandal that nearly resulted in Tuberville's firing last season. As the wealthy chief of the Alabama-based Colonial Bank, Lowder has been known to give millions to the athletic department. Months after the scandal, he donated $4.2 million, the largest single gift made to the Auburn athletic department, to finance the student-athlete development center. The contribution made his $600,000 check in 2003 to Tigers Unlimited - Auburn's booster club - seem like ashtray change.

Vicarious access to the program isn't cheap. Some trustees turned boosters - or vice versa - will meddle whatever the cost.

"Some trustees, a minority, have wanted to gain influence over athletic department decisions," Brand said, adding that whoever the donor is, "sometimes, you can't afford the gift because there are too many strings attached."

Before the first coin toss of a Bowl Championship Series game, 20 of 117 Division I-A programs had changed coaches, leading to this question: As salaries expand, as leashes shorten, who pays the severance deals?

On its 2002 990 tax form, Seminole Boosters reported $260,000 to buy out coaches' contracts. If Meyer doesn't work out in three years as the Gators' chosen one, somebody will have to absorb the balance on the $14 million owed to him.

In the coming years, powerful booster clubs will bear the burden of their own making in an arms race fueled by their outsized expectations in a ludicrous cycle no one seems able to stop. Presidents and athletic directors seem helpless, rendering the Knight Commission report a romantic, idealist piece of paper disconnected from reality.

University presidents like Michigan's Mary Sue Coleman haven't given up. She has turned down excessive commercialism and gifts with contingencies, bucking the trend of incorporating booster clubs. Even so, Coleman, a member of the 2001 Knight Commission, understands the pressure her peers face.

"I think we're in a circumstance where we can't figure out how to deal with salaries because there are forces out there that, when a single institution is making a decision on hiring a coach, and knowing what the marketplace is, what decision are they making?" Coleman said. "I don't think they're going back to the Knight Commission report and reflecting on it."

If presidents are struggling for control, if the N.C.A.A. is legally helpless to rein in salaries, the chance of financial chaos at some institutions isn't that far-fetched.

"I don't think we'll have an Armageddon," Brand said, "I don't think we'll explode, but I think there will come a realization that institutions can no longer" operate in a professional football market.

Brand added: "In football, with coaches' salaries, it's interesting, coaches and their agents have essentially extended the market. So now the market doesn't include just college coaches, but N.F.L. coaches. That larger market involves larger compensation packages. In this, so comes the rules that are governing the N.F.L. coaches, and that's win or get out."

Ron Zook was tossed out of the Swamp. And for that, he will collect $1.8 million from Florida, in addition to a $1 million salary from his new employer, Illinois.

One program's failure is another university's messiah at a sticker price set by the sugar daddies of athletics: the über-booster.

E-mail: [email protected]



Big Boosters Call the Shots
 
yes Otis i know cars and pussy all the way back to the 1940's and 1950's you assclown. I'm talkin multi million dollar free agent coaches with cars, and shoe deals, and country club memberships, and lear jets. Wake up dickhead and smell the coffee. Now it's time to go to church.Now that I've got a warnings level figured I'd better get honest and admit my attendance at church is only for funerals
 
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IrontonBuck

Walk On
I think it was stated in the media recently that booster contributions make up about 10% of Ohio State's athletic budget. A far cry from the one-third at Florida. Maybe this is where the media latches on to a larger truth: that the problems faced at Ohio State are systemic of the entire NCAA membership, and that Ohio State is honestly trying to do something about it.
 
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College Coach Salaries - Gordon Gee Gets His Wish

I really am happy to see Mr Gee at Vanderbilt.

For College Coaches, the Cash Is Rolling In
By PETE THAMEL

Published: January 2, 2005

ORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Dec. 31 - In his 24-year odyssey through higher education as president at Brown, Ohio State, Colorado and West Virginia, Gordon Gee maintains he has had one aspiration.

"My goal in life has always been to earn as much money as my football coach," Gee, now chancellor at Vanderbilt, said in a recent telephone interview.

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Right now, Gee does make more money than his football coach, but that is not typical at universities with N.C.A.A. Division I-A football programs.

When college presidents meet at the National Collegiate Athletic Association's annual convention, which begins Friday, the rising salaries of coaches will be an item on the agenda.

"How are we going to handle this escalation of cost?" Gee said. "Can we afford to stay in this environment? What are we trying to accomplish?"

The issue sets off drastically different emotions among the main players - the coaches, the agents, the athletic directors and the college presidents.

Gee called it a tragedy. The Oklahoma athletic director, Joe Castiglione, said it was merely reality. Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops said he makes "market value." The sports agent Neil Cornrich said the salaries were too low.

The N.C.A.A. president, Myles Brand, chalked up the recent increases to competition from the N.F.L. and predicted that faculty groups would soon start raising concerns.

Viewpoints may vary, but the dollars do not lie. At least eight Division I-A football coaches make more than $2 million a season, including recent additions to that club: Mack Brown of Texas, Urban Meyer of Florida and Tommy Tuberville of Auburn.

Castiglione predicted that by next spring, 12 to 15 coaches would make salaries of more than $2 million.

"I'm not all that comfortable saying it, but I believe we're much closer to breaking the $3 million barrier than people believe right now," he said.

Castiglione said he was uneasy with the salary escalation, but he was quick to add that it could be justified.

Oklahoma's Stoops makes more than $2.5 million a year, the highest known salary of any college football coach.

But he runs a football program that Castiglione said generates $41 million to $42 million in annual revenue. That finances 70 percent of Oklahoma's budget for its 20-team intercollegiate program. Football expenses account for 30 percent of the athletic budget.

Football, Castiglione said, provides financing in a self-sufficient athletic department that receives no taxpayer or state money.

"If it was a bad dynamic, more and more universities would drop football," Castiglione said. "The value is obvious. So why not apply good business strategy? From a business standpoint, we can justify every penny that we pay Bob and his staff."

He said salaries were reported differently 10 years ago, with coaches' outside revenue - from camps, television and radio shows, speeches and apparel - not counted as part of the total package.

Today, most coaches have all of their ancillary income included in their contract with the universities, which control the outside revenue from endorsements and appearances.

That is one reason, Castiglione said, that the numbers appear larger.

"We're all just trying to be smarter and more efficient in creating a better financial package," he said. "And when a coach leaves, you don't lose outside contacts with them."

Cornrich, the agent for Stoops and many other high-profile college coaches, including Iowa's Kirk Ferentz and Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez, said he saw the salary inflation as indicative of the money football programs make.

Gee said rising salaries were especially a problem because only about a dozen athletic departments were profitable each year, but Cornrich pointed to the huge revenue produced by football.

Cornrich also said that the peripheral benefits of a successful program should not be underestimated - the corollary spike in alumni donations, ticket prices, television rights fees, marketing and merchandising revenue, and student applications for admission.

"If anything," Cornrich said, "I'd argue that coaches' salaries are lagging."

Cornrich said it was simply supply and demand: a winning coach will cost a college more money, just as an apartment in Manhattan will cost more than one in Duluth, Minn.

"It's whatever the market bears," Cornrich said. "As the game gets bigger and revenue increases, there's no reason to draw a line in the sand. The real question should be: When will they start sharing revenue with the people who produce it, other than the coaches?"

Brand, the N.C.A.A. president, said college coaches' salaries began to increase when the N.F.L. started recruiting them in the past few years.

"What's happened through the work of agents and others is that the market between the pro and college ranks has collapsed," Brand said. "It's a single market now. As a result, the salaries and the conditions of employment for football coaches in college are coming to resemble those in the pro ranks."

There has always been a demand to win on campus, but the big money has pressured colleges to win now, and that impatience has contributed to a spate of college firings, including the dismissal of Tyrone Willingham by Notre Dame after the completion of only three years of a five-year contract.

Brand said the consensus was that the trend of escalating coaches' salaries would continue.

Castiglione said: "You can debate it, curse it or embrace it, but if you're going into a competitive market, there's a decision to be made. It's a choice that an institution has to make. If they don't want to do it, they can say no. I'm not complaining, I'm just being candid."

Coaches Salaries
 
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