sports (2005-49)

Money Talks

NCAA coaching salaries are out of hand

by Tony Basilio

Now that UT’s football season has thankfully reached an untimely demise, it seems appropriate to take an account of the goods on hand and try to make cents of it. As in dollars and sense! Like UT’s ’05 coaching staff, the sport of major college football has become alarmingly bloated. The Federal Government would be proud of the way money is flying around these days.

When Johnny Majors was unceremoniously deposed in the Fall of ’92, he was haggling with UT’s administration over a slight raise. King Johnny, who unfortunately and ironically has chosen to refer to Phillip Fulmer recently as ‘Judas Brutus’ was actually pleading with UT’s movers and shakers for a few more pieces of silver in the summer of ’92. Back then, Tennessee bargained in hard currency. These days, they spend money on the Hill as if it’s being printed in the basement of the Hodges library.

David Cutcliffe is the latest to feel the warm breeze of the Big Orange windfall. UT’s back to the future offensive coordinator will ‘earn’ over $300,000 in ’06. This is nearly what Majors pocketed in his final full season as UT’s head coach. What’s changed in 15 years? Besides the new machine in the basement, not much.

Phillip Fulmer 15 years later is making seven times what Johnny Majors made in his final season at UT. It’s non-centsical the way the money is flying around these days in major college football. We’ve given these guys a blank check to create a culture of “me.” There is no accountability. It’s all about them. That is, until they start to lose. During a season like ’05, it becomes about us. And even if it isn’t about us, Coach Fulmer is forced to act like it is for political expediency. Immediately following the conclusion of the season, UT fired off a letter “penned” by Fulmer “apologizing” for the season. Even this Fulma-Culpa stuff has its limits.

UT’s brass should’ve held Coach Fulmer more accountable for what happened. Sure, he sort of/almost apologized to the season ticket holders for the debacle that was ’05. But did he really feel it? I know he cares. You can see how much this season has aged the poor guy. Still, money talks.

By all accounts Phillip Fulmer had a “my bad” ’05. But is it really his bad? Besides another raise he doesn’t really need, what has it cost him? He will still pocket over $2 million coaching next season. As a result of the “Nosedive in ‘05,” UT (which had previously given him the keys to the car) has now turned over the family checkbook. His coaching staff is being upgraded without fiscal conscience. David Cutcliffe will make twice as much as his predecessor Randy Sanders. John Chavis is even getting a bump in pay of around $50,000 just for being there when Cutcliffe comes back. Back to Hodges to print some more money.

Ask yourself this: If Fulmer truly cares, and I believe that he does, why doesn’t UT make him prove it? If he wants upgrades to his coaching staff, he should personally pay the freight. The extra money to pay for the new and improved staff is coming from the University. That’s code for UT season ticket holders and boosters. I was sitting around on a recent night marveling about this with my lovely wife who chimed in with patented laconic reticence, “You know, they have to do something with all that money they raise.”

Unfortunately, “they,” as in UT, aren’t the only ones raising massive bags of cash. Auburn’s Tommy Tuberville (the SEC’s only other $2 million man with Fulmer) becomes the highest paid coach in the SEC in ’06 due to an ‘automatic’ $200,000 rollover that is added each year to his contract. That stipulation in his deal is in place for the next five years. In other words, he will be a $3,000,000 man before it’s all over! Where is Tommy Tuberville going? Where for that matter is Phillip Fulmer, Mark Richt, or Houston Nutt going to go? All of these guys are making over $1.5 million per year. It’s silly. Now Alabama is getting into the act. Mike Shula was “woefully underpaid” as head coach of the once Crumbling Tide this past season when he “earned” over $800,000 per year. Now, coming off a “breakthrough” 9-2 season, ‘Bama is getting ready to make Shula the newest member of the Millionaires Club, which left a Birmingham based columnist to conclude that Shula’s hasty raise will be more about their pride than his performance. Alabama can’t stand having a coach who is paid in the bottom half of the league.

Coming into this season, over fifty coaches in Division 1-A college football “earned” over $1,000,000 per year. It seems UT isn’t the only school printing money these days.

Listen up! Tune in and talk sports with Tony Basilio weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on ESPN Radio WVLZ 1180 AM.

© 2005 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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