The latest salvo in the college athletics war isn’t between schools on the field — it’s between schools and their checkbook. The University of Alabama kicked the second-highest paid college football coach in the nation, Nick Saban, into the No. 1 spot by giving him an eight-year $64-million contract extension chock full of potential bonuses, including $11.1 million this year in salary and bonus. Is Nick Saban worth $11.1 million to coach college football this year?
To be the man, you have to beat the man, and few have since Saban came to Tuscaloosa — with four national titles (plus another at LSU) and a 119-19 record on the field. His original contract was an eye-popping $4 million per year — that’s his bonus alone for the upcoming season.
But at what cost? Should college coaches be getting paid the same, or more, than coaches in pro sports — where the higher pay range is more in line with the salaries that players are making?
It’s not just Saban. He just happens to be this year’s poster boy. Saban, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer all make as much or more than the highest paid manager in Major League Baseball — and San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy has a six-month season.
At places like Alabama, Michigan and Ohio State, the success of the football program and the subsequent income from television, apparel and shoe manufacturers, and bowls helps keep other programs afloat; trickle-down economics to all sports.
The state of Alabama could give Nick Saban a blank check & whatever number he filled in wouldn’t be enough 4 what he has done in that state
— Booger (@SECbooger) May 2, 2017
Alabama football coach Nick Saban will make more than 92 TIMES what Alabama’s governor Kay Ivey will make this year.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) May 2, 2017
At the same time, trying to keep pace is not only separating those in the Power Five schools, but deepening the division between football’s haves and have-nots. At some schools, students and facility are pushing back.
Alabama fans and officials may counter that it’s not their responsibility to look out for the bigger picture. Their job is to look out for their university. There’s no doubt Saban’s success has had an affect on Alabama — out-of-state enrollment has climbed; overall enrollment has jumped from a little over 22,000 in 2007 to 37,665 this fall; and freshmen enrollment in Tuscaloosa has moved from 4,500 in 1007 to 7,500 this fall.
But is that the tail wagging the dog? There are hints that the NCAA is considering limiting staff size after reports came out that some schools had 95 employees in the football program with 85 scholarships (something that didn’t exactly sit well with Saban). And nine of Alabama’s assistant coaches stand to make more than $6 million next season after their own raises. Is Saban’s trademark process to be the best at taking the sport down the wrong path?
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