Column: Colleges crying wolf about funding | NevadaAppeal.com

Column: Colleges crying wolf about funding

by staff

In the last few days, we’ve found out Nevada’s universities need to:

– Raise fees on students.

– Raise property taxes.

– Raise the football coach’s salary.

One of these, as they say, is not like the others. Can you guess which?

Well, sure, the University of Nevada, Reno needed a new football coach. The guy they fired had won only one more game than he’d lost, and that’s just not acceptable.

He was making $96,400 a year, so the obvious answer was to bring in a new guy and raise the pay to $225,000 a year. He probably won’t lose a game, huh? But if he does, no doubt they can find somebody willing to take the job for, say, $500,000 a year.

As one of my co-workers here said, he would gladly have done the job for $100,000 a year. But then, we’re not football coaches.

Neither are you. When was the last time your job saw a pay increase of $128,000?

I’m just supposing here, but no matter what you do – mechanic, teacher, governor – you probably win more than you lose. If you were operating at a success rate of, say, 55 percent in your job, where would you be?

It takes a lot of gall for university administrators to cry poor for a week – or a year, or a lifetime, I forget which – while somebody across campus was thinking, “We’ve got an extra 100 grand or so lying around. Let’s spend it on a football coach!”

Of course, this isn’t the only example. Perhaps you noticed in Thursday’s Appeal that the governor and other state officials were wondering why their department heads have no money to bring in job applicants for interviews.

The people who run the state have to scrimp in order to actually see a job applicant in person. But the universities have no such problem. In fact, they have something called “discretionary money” so they can fly in not only the job applicant but his or her entire family.

Ever had an employer offer that? I haven’t.

Of course, we know from past experience why the universities need to bring in the whole family. They’re going to be getting jobs on campus, too. Maybe we could get a package deal on a college president whose spouse is also a football coach.

To put this in perspective, though, UNR is small potatoes when it comes to college athletics.

Here I am getting all red in the face over a $225,000 coaching salary, when other schools like the University of Minnesota are giving away far more money so that a guy won’t coach there.

Remember the little scandal in which a tutor wrote 400 papers for the basketball team so they would have more time to practice their jump shots?

The folks at the University of Minnesota were pretty embarrased by those shenanigans, so they fired the basketball coach. Poor guy had to settle for a lump-sum payment of $1.5 million, pension benefits, moving expenses and season tickets to Minnesota games for the next three years.

Ever been fired from a job? You probably forgot to ask for the $1.5 million settlement and moving expenses, didn’t you? Well, that’s why these guys are college coaches. Xs and Os, baby, but a lot more Os.

Now, I’m already hearing from the athletic department about how much money football actually brings into the university. Alums are shelling out donations, they’re buying tickets, they’re building shrines, like the one at UNR, for the faithful. Hoo boy.

I have no doubt that a couple of Internet porn sites in the computer lab would turn a profit, too. And probably contribute more toward the students’ education while they’re at it. I don’t see anybody offering the computer lab supervisor $225,000.

Dave Kindred, a columnist for the Sporting News, calls amateur athletics “the biggest lie in sports history.”

He notes that the NCAA’s deal to televise its March Madness basketball tournament amounts to $6 billion. Each school stands to get $545 million.

“It’s an outrage,” Kindred wrote, “and only the latest in a century of outrages committed by universities practicing hypocrisy without a blush.”

Kindred is disgusted that universities and coaches rake in the cash while the athletes themselves – oh, yeah, the guys actually doing the winning and losing – can get thrown out for accepting a rental car for the weekend.

My beef is with the university administrators who have one hand out for the dollars of taxpayers and students, while the other is behind their back giving away thousands to the football coach.

Out on the field, that kind of sleight-of-hand is used for a play called the “end around.” Off the field, I’d call it sacking the public.

Barry Smith is managing editor of the Nevada Appeal.