Inside Texas Blog: Gettin' Paid

UT Regents are set to vote Monday on salary boost for basketball coach Rick Barnes. But should the hoops coach at Texas be paid as much as its football coach?

The University of Texas System's Board of Regents is expected to make Rick Barnes the Big 12 Conference's first $2 million dollar man following an anticipated pay raise. However, there is a longstanding mindset at Bellmont Hall that the Texas football coach should invariably be paid more than the basketball coach. Agree?

Brown's base salary is in the $2.55 million dollar range. On Monday, the Regents are expected to approve a raise (and other incentives) for Barnes, boosting his annual stipend from a guaranteed $1.8 million by an additional $200 grand. (Note: Barnes' assistants are also expected to receive raises, but this would not require Board approval). The move would keep Barnes' in the elite company of Ohio State's Thad Matta and new Kentucky coach Billie Gillispie, who reportedly are in the $2 million club. It would also keep Barnes at least $500,000 below Brown's paycheck.

Barnes is the most successful coach in the history of Texas basketball. He not only has taken the program to a school-record nine straight NCAA Tournament appearances, he is also one of just three active coaches to notch four Sweet Sixteen appearances in the past six years. The program has recorded three Top 10 finishes in the past five seasons and reached the Final Four (2003) for the first time since 1947. His 216-86 record (24 wins per season) makes Barnes' the winningest-ever Longhorn hoops coach. The kind of talent (notably Kevin Durant, T.J. Ford, LaMarcus Aldridge) that Barnes has brought to Austin was unimaginable two decades ago.

We all know that Men's A.D. DeLoss Dodds has the bank vault to make Barnes not only the highest-salaried collegiate hoops coach in the country but also the highest paid coach on campus (regardless of the sport).

But the question, here, is whether the decision to invariably pay the UT football coach more than its basketball coach is defensible.

The opinion, here, is absolutely.

The football program generated approximately $53.2 million during the 2005 national championship season, and more than $38 million of that was pure profit. Salaries for UT football coaches derive from football revenues and donations. It is estimated that each home football game pumps nearly $10 million into the Austin economy. Longhorn home football games are always 'official' sellouts and current north end zone expansion will increase stadium capacity to more than 91,000 in 2008.

Meanwhile, the 16,755-seat Erwin Center sits half-empty during most home games. Sellouts are rare; they are typically achieved only when a traditional football rival sends its hoops team to Austin. Longhorn basketball, regardless of its current level of unprecedented success, will never approximate the revenue-generating juggernaut that is Longhorn football. And that has less to do with Barnes' considerable efforts to upgrade his program's stature than it does the nature of the deep-in-the-heart-of-Texas football culture.

You've heard the adages more than you can remember: In Texas, the two most important sports are football and spring training. Then again, football is not a sport in Texas -- it's a religion. What's good for the football team, according to the old saying, is also good for the library (i.e., in places like Austin, there is a demonstrable correlation between a successful football program and monetary donations to academics).

One would be hard-pressed to find a single entity that more powerfully affects a sense of identity, and of place, that creates a semblance of cohesion and of community than does football in the Lone Star state. No one is arguing that this is the way it should be, but we would certainly concur that this is the way it is.

It may be a symbolic gesture that the Texas football coach's salary remains the highest on campus, but, in this instance, it is not symbolism over substance. Longhorn football allows for the other Burnt Orange state-of-the-art facilities and world-class coaching staffs enjoyed by traditionally non-revenue producing sports. For all these reasons, and more, the Texas football coach is charged with not only a multi-million dollar operation, but also a product that (as legendary coach Darrell Royal observed) "20 million Texans care about every day."

The Texas football coach deserves to be the highest paid on campus. By the time the sun sets Monday, Barnes will have been justly compensated for taking the basketball program to new heights by remaining one of the Top Three salaried coaches in the country. And Brown's paycheck will (reportedly) trail only Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, USC's Pete Carroll and Notre Dame's Charlie Weiss.

The University of Texas must always be a Tier One football powerhouse that is annually in the mix for the national championship. The school should also have an outstanding basketball team that advances in the NCAAs. The head coach's salary of each sport should reflect that commitment.

What do you think?

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