The University of Alabama has approximately 250 scholarship athletes and overall revenues in excess of $143 million. If the fine folks in Tuscaloosa were to pay each scholarship athlete $300 a month beyond the room, board, tuition, books and fees guaranteed in the scholarship contract, it would cost Alabama $900,000, which is a drop in the bucket when you consider the overall revenues and when you consider Alabama has the funds to pay Nick Saban more than $7.3 million per year. While the University of Alabama wasn't the subject of testimony at the Ed O'Bannon vs. the NCAA trial that concluded in Oakland, California last Friday, Judge Claudia Wilken did spend a lot of time asking questions about coaches' salaries. Although she hasn't ruled on this case, her line of questioning would lead one to believe that she is leaning toward a conclusion that if universities can afford to pay coaches these astronomical salaries, then they certainly can afford to supplement scholarships. The top 65 schools that are lobbying for either their own NCAA division or else their own independent organization, would have no problems with the judge ruling they have to pay because they've got the cash and it shows in the salaries they pay their football coaches.
Here are the reported football coach salaries in the Southeastern Conference: Will Muschamp, Florida, $3 million; Nick Saban, Alabama, $7.3 million; Bret Bielema, Arkansas $3 million; Gus Malzahn, Auburn, $4 million; Mark Richt, Georgia, $3.4 million; Mark Stoops, Kentucky, $2.25 million; Les Miles, LSU, $4.5 million; Dan Mullen, Mississippi State, $3.2 million; Gary Pinkel, Missouri, $3.25 million; Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss, $3.2 million; Steve Spurrier, South Carolina, $4 million; Butch Jones, Tennessee, $3.2 million; Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M, $5 million; Derek Mason, Vanderbilt, $2.25 million. That's an average salary of $3.68 million per year per coach.
Of the 65 schools from the power conferences (plus Notre Dame), the salaries range from Saban's $7.3 million down to the $900,000 Rutgers pays Kyle Flood. Among the 65 power schools, only eight coaches make less than $2 million per season. Big 12 coaches are second to the SEC, averaging $3.38 million, the Big Ten $2.84 million; the Pac-12 $2.67million and the ACC $2.45 million (Jimbo Fisher of FSU makes $4 million and Al Golden of Miami makes $2.3 million). Notre Dame pays Brian Kelly $4 million per season.
Among the non-power schools, the top salary ($3.3 million) is paid to Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville. There are three coaches who make between $2-3 million (George O'Leary at UCF and Willie Taggert of USF each make $2 million), 11 who make between $1-2 million, 32 who make between $500,000-999,999, and 11 who make $499,999 or less.
What that salary structure would lead us to believe is that the bulk of the schools that make up the power 65 could afford to pay players a supplement and some additional benefits. If they can afford to pay multi-million dollar coach salaries, then it's not a stretch to say they can afford a player supplement, particularly when you throw in their television contracts and the cash each conference will pull in from the new playoff. That salary structure would also lead us to believe that these schools could also afford to pay for health insurance benefits for injuries that linger beyond graduation and for insurance policies for players who have NFL potential (typically in the neighborhood $5,000 per million dollars of coverage).
Coaches' salaries are generally a reflection of the prosperity of the school's athletic department and the salaries of the non-power conference schools seem to tell us that most of them would have a hard time ponying up the cash. Nothing points out the gap between the haves and have nots of college sports quite like football coach salaries.
Judge Wilken's decision is going to be critical because the direction of college sports will be shaped by her interpretation of the facts presented from both sides. If her ruling opens the door for paying players a supplement, will that ruling apply only to those who can afford or will it lead to a tiered structure that could have recruits making college decisions based on who offers the best benefit package? Will schools that can afford to pay supplements and benefits have to pay while those who plead poverty are exempted? Because of Title IX will all scholarship athletes have to be paid or just those in revenue-producing sports?
There is no timetable for Judge Wilken's decisions on a case in which player pay represents only a small percentage of the issues, but when her ruling is released it will probably raise more questions than it answers. The only thing certain is that college sports won't ever be the same again.
What does it say about college basketball that 14 non-North Americans (five first round, seven in the second; average height 6-9) in last week's NBA Draft? For one thing it tells you there are a lot of very tall, talented people from Europe and Africa who are getting better coaching than ever before and second, it tells you a lot of very good players in the United States elected to stay in school an extra year. At a time when there aren't a lot of kids in the 6-11 to 7-2 range playing in the US, the European leagues are loaded with kids of African descent as well as the Balkans, were there is a disproportionate number of tall people compared to the population. As for the Americans, the draft probably would have looked a lot different if Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, the Harrison Twins and Alex Poythress (all from Kentucky) had elected to leave school or if Chris Walker (Florida), Montrezl Harrel (Louisville), Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker (both Wisconsin), Marcus Paige (North Carolina), Wayne Selden (Kansas), Cameron Ridley (Texas), Ryan Boatright (UConn), Brandon Ashley (Arizona) or Jayvaughn Pinkston (Villanova) had declared for the draft. American college basketball is in good shape, but the game and the players are improving rapidly in the rest of the world, too.
Udonis Haslem has opted out of his contract with the Miami Heat. He's not going anywhere. He will be back with the Heat next year, but with a restructured salary to help the Heat create cap room to add the pieces they will need to bring home another NBA championship. This is the second time Haslem has allowed the Heat to restructure his contract. He did it four years ago to help the Heat sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Haslem is a pillar of strength in the Miami locker room and he's a guy who leads by example. He's a good soldier. If the Heat organization is smart, one of these days when Haslem's playing career is over, there will be a place in the front office to train him for bigger and better things.
You don't have to be a soccer fan to appreciate Costa Rica's dramatic shootout win over Greece Sunday. One nation saw its dreams crushed while the other saw its impossible dream live on. Very cool stuff ... Mexico's team manager has every right to complain about losing to The Netherlands on a penalty kick. If you've watched the replay, it seems pretty clear that either Arjen Robben of The Netherlands flopped or was already on his way down when he was touched. He also admits he flopped in the first half when he was trying to draw a foul. The excessive flopping in just about every World Cup match has distracted from an otherwise exciting tournament ... Philip Lutzenkirchen, one of the heroes in Auburn's 14-0 run to the national championship in 2010, died over the weekend when a Chevy Tahoe he was riding in flipped several times. He was 23 ... Indiana University has come up with a 10-point student-athlete bill of rights that covers many of the issues brought up in the Ed O'Bannon vs. The NCAA trial ... Nigel Bethel II, who was Texas Tech's top football recruit, is gone before he even plays a game. He punched out the leading scorer from Texas Tech's women's basketball team during a pickup game Saturday and was immediately sent packing ... Phil Steele's top five Heisman candidates are (in order): (1) Marcus Mariota, Oregon; (2) Jameis Winston, FSU; (3) Braxton Miller, Ohio State; (4) Bryce Petty, Baylor; and (5) Todd Gurley, Georgia.
Which Southeastern Conference team has the toughest football schedule this fall?
Back in 1970, when Derek and the Dominoes were getting ready to record the album "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs," Eric Clapton and Duane Allman sat down and jammed for an entire day. A good bit of their session was captured on tape including the old T-Bone Walker blues standard, "Mean Old World" which you can hear on the 1990 box set "The Layla Sessions: 20th Anniversary Edition." I could listen to this song 4-5 times every day and never grow tired of it.