Dear Athletic Support: I’m a huge college football fan. With all the COVID stuff, this was by far the weirdest season I can remember. The quiet stadiums. The coaches in masks. Cancelled games. The list goes on and on. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the massive amount of money universities still pay their head football coaches. I’m an alumni of a large college in my state. I can’t begin to tell you how many letters I received this years, asking for me to donate money to help keep the athletic program going. My university even ended up cutting a few sports to stay afloat. This smells like a big fat lie to me, seeing as how they’re still paying our football coach all his money. To make matters worse, other schools are paying to fire their coaches! These multi-million dollar buyouts are ridiculous, especially right now. Our country is hurting. People are waiting for their stimulus checks. But college football coaches are making millions, even after they get canned! Are our priorities as a country way off, or I am I just crazy?
- Buy Me Out
Dear Buy Me Out: You’re not crazy. Things are definitely off at the upper-echelon of college football. There’s no reason at all for coaches to make that much money. So how does it happen?
Football programs have become the front porch to American universities. What I mean is that they’re the shiny stuff, the window dressing, that serves as a recruitment tool for the rest of the school.
Think about the amount of TV/commercial time a university with a high-powered football team will get over the course of one season. That’s why these coaches are making such crazy salaries.
How does it happen, though? Especially when universities are supposedly in dire financial conditions as a result of COVID?
Boosters. I’m talking big-money guys who don’t mind paying ten million out of their own pockets to get an old coach out and a new one in.
Prime-time college athletics is a multi-billion-dollar business. And a lot of that money comes from private donors. Yes, it is sickening to think there are millions of dollars being spent to fire college football coaches while the rest of America fights over toilet paper and prays for $600 stimulus checks.
But that’s just the way it is.
The chances of coaches’ salaries going down anytime soon is unlikely. The best we can hope for—and I have heard talk of this—is the end of buyouts. I’m not actually sure how this would happen, as it would take a restructuring of all the FBS coaches’ contracts at exactly the same time. But if it does happen, I think college football will be better off for it.
Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Send questions for “Athletic Support” to firstname.lastname@example.org