Justifying athletics salaries with revenue

Stephen McGarvey

UT is an athletic powerhouse. Its teams are consistently ranked on the national level; as a result, the personnel coaching them is some of the best-paid in the country. But with budget cuts left and right and higher education receiving the brunt of the impact, one must wonder: Are these salaries truly justified? After all, Mack Brown, the highest paid coach in college sports, brings in almost $5.2 million annually before bonuses and incentives. The answer is complicated and varies from coach to coach, but in general, each coach earns his or her salary and greatly contributes to our University.

Since it is by far the most talked about, let’s look first at football. The UT football program brings in nearly $100 million of revenue annually. Not only does this cover Brown’s and every other coach’s salary, but it also covers the entire football program, including player scholarships, other sports and even sends a chunk of the proceeds over to academics. The same professors chanting for a pay cut for Brown may want to think twice about questioning his value — his football program may be contributing to their salary.

In a similar way, men’s basketball head coach Rick Barnes makes $2.2 million, but his program brings in far more, at $15.6 million. These two men have successfully done something that not many other employees here at UT can say: That they actually made the University money.

But beyond football and basketball, justifying salaries becomes a little shaky. Baseball head coach August Garrido nets $900,000, though his program only breaks about even. Still, when tax or tuition dollars are not spent financing baseball, it’s hard to complain. Women’s basketball is a different story. Newly appointed head women’s basketball coach Karen Aston will make about $600,000, according to The Washington Post. While this is only half the salary of her predecessor, Gail Goestenkors, it is still financially unjustifiable for a sport that loses about $2.6 million annually, according to Bloomberg.

So should UT eliminate all sports and programs that are not generating a profit? Absolutely not. These sports offer a unique and diverse array of options for students that contribute to their college experiences. However, when sports are not turning a profit, their coaches should not be earning exorbitant salaries. They should only be paid enough to attract solid coaching talent. Brown and Barnes are in a category of excellence all to themselves, and their salaries are justified. Docking their salaries could result in their leaving, and with a lower salary to offer coaches, UT would have to settle for decreased coaching talent, decreased athletic victories and, ultimately, decreased revenue.

While it seems harsh to view salaries and employee value in such a cold, purely financial way, universities are in the middle of financially unstable times. When looking for places to cut, profitable athletic programs should be the absolute last places to look. Instead, UT should focus any cuts on programs — sports and otherwise — that do not earn their keep.

McGarvey is a business honors freshman.