Coach's Corner

This the third part in a series about the out of control, but market-driven head coaching contracts that are threatening to damage college football. I want to reiterate that I can't fault anyone for taking advantage of the American dream of wealth and fame.

Taking care of yourself and your immediate family can not be faulted. But, if football is really a team sport, shouldn't all members of the team share in the wealth? After all, how many fans go to games to watch the coaches coach? I know television is obsessed with head coaches on the sidelines, but what do you really ever see them doing besides standing there listening to their head set? Don't most fans go to see the players play? How much actual hands-on coaching does a head coach do?

I can tell you first-hand: compared to any assistant on his staff, very little.

The game is played by the kids, under the direction of their position coaches, and overseen by the head coach.

The head coach is like the CEO of a major corporation. He doesn't really do much "coaching" with the kids. He picks the assistants who do the coaching and they pick the players to do the playing.

Head coaches are administrators just like their bosses - the athletic directors, the college presidents, and the state governors. Only the difference is that the coach is probably making up to 10 times as much as any those.

In a day and time where colleges usually have 20 other sports to fund, the balancing of the budget usually rests on the success of the football program, and to a lesser degree, men's basketball.

How can one sport's coach make more than all the other 19 sports coaches combined salaries without raising questions of disparity? Proponents of Title IX will tell you that it's just not right.

Forget it. The coaches of the other sports realize football is a unique form of the entertainment industry that pays for most of the other sports to exist. In fact football probably pays for their salary. Everyone who coaches any sport in college where there is a big-time football program realizes who the golden goose is.

And now we are in the age of four million dollar per year contracts, two free cars, housing allowances, country club memberships, performance bonuses, shoe contracts, and professional assistance in all your legal, financial, residential, insurance, and investment concerns. Sounds like a pretty good job, don't you think?

Somebody is getting rich in amateur sports, and it's not the players, that's for sure.

As a former coach, I never dreamed that these sorts of deals would ever be possible in the sport of college football. We figured that was only in the pros and they took the big money in return for no job security and having to move their families all of the time. Everyone in the profession knows that pro football was just a big recycling bin. They just shift coaches around. Now it's the young guys turn as it seems like all the new head coaches are in their thirties.

When Don James took the job at Washington just over 30 years ago, he made around $30,000. His assistants obviously made a lot less. His players made about $200 per month on their scholarship check along with a training table, books, tuition, and fee.

Since those days in the mid seventies, the economy has of course changed and everyone's salaries have all gone up. But by a hundred fold? Wow.

It's still a game played by young men who are playing for their scholarships and the thrill of victory. For them it is still an experience of living at the level of poverty and basically done for the right reasons - becoming and belonging to a team, working extremely hard, and hopefully becoming good enough to play successfully, win championships, and possibly go on to the professional level.

They are using football as a vehicle to a college education and hopefully that enhances their occupational opportunities.

Fifteen years after taking the Husky job, Coach James was making about 10 times what he did when he started (roughly $300,000). If he were still coaching today, he'd be making 10 times that ($3 million).

For doing the exact same job he'd always done.

One of the problems is that the inflation is never ever a gradual or earned increase. It always jumps whenever you have to replace, fire, or otherwise change coaches. The market forces that whenever it wants to in the form of large donors.

When a school fires a staff, they will usually proceed to pay the next coach and his staff much more money. At the UW, the increase was two-fold, and the assistants at least 25-30% over what the previous assistants made. None of this is based on past or current performance, which is what makes this profession (and its salary market) so strange.

Somehow this doesn't seem fiscally responsible.

To reiterate, I have no problem with someone being in the right place at the right time. But the price keeps going up, which only causes resentment among the other sports and those in academia who feel it football is out of perspective in the first place.

It is quite conceivable to have a situation on a campus where a Nobel Prize winner who has helped save humanity makes 1/10th of what the football coach makes.

The football coach can make as much in a month as a scientist does in a year at the same campus. That just further fuels the animosity between upper and lower campus not to mention feelings of every other head coach at the school. Alabama will pay Nick Saban more than they will pay their entire History department.

Here is where I want you to focus, though. While the head football coach's salaries have increased about 100 fold over the past 30 years, the student-athletes stipends have increased about three fold.

The kids who play the football at Washington make about $600 per month. There in lies another discrepancy where some schools like USC and UCLA use a cost of living index that inflates their player's scholarship checks so that they are allowed to make more money than a kid at Washington or Oregon State. Am I implying that this is used in negative recruiting?


They will never pay the football and basketball players more because they would have to pay the gymnasts and the swimmers the same. Even though their sports have no income, these student-athletes are under the same scholarship rules and therefore entitled to the same income. No school is going to go for that when they have to pay their football coach so much bling.

The sport of football could potentially break the bank at some of these schools. Someone is going to have to put a lid on this escalation. Either that or finally admit that football and men's basketball are unique forms of the American entertainment industry, and because of the fact that they generate almost all the income for intercollegiate athletics, they should be taken out of the Title IX calculations and equations.

I love the sport of football. It has been a driving force and a key part of my life for the past 50 years. I had the privilege of playing it at all levels, coaching it at the high school, junior college, and major college levels, as well as being an athletic-director, a trainer, a manager, a strength coach, a scoreboard operator, a groundskeeper, a referee, a sports writer, a broadcaster, and a fan. There isn't a role related to the game I have not played except in the band. I respect the sport. I believe it is one of our most important training grounds for young men.

I'm just saddened that has become so money driven.

Money talks. Unfortunately, it also creates false expectations for winning that lead to more turn over, less stability for the kids, and more firings and hirings, which in turn continue to fuel the inflationary spiral.

I think the end result will be that the NCAA and College Football will finally have some sort of playoff that will generate the extra income to pay for this "professionalizing" of the sport.

That will be one good thing to come from all of this monetization. columnist and KJR 950 Sports Radio personality, Dick Baird.
Dick Baird was an Assistant Coach (Linebackers) and Recruiting Coordinator at the UW from 1985-1998. He has joined the staff as a featured columnist for both the web site and Sports Washington magazine. In addition to his regular editorial columns, Coach Baird will try to provide some of his unique perspective by answering a few of your selected questions online. If you would like to send in your questions, please CLICK HERE. Top Stories