OTish - WaPo story on Athletic departments out of control spending.

Submitted by Bigku22 on December 30th, 2015 at 10:48 AM
I've seen numerous stories on the ridiculous spending of college athletic departments recently, Bacon has covered it for UM as well. This Washington Post article references Michigan and the increases under Brandon. Even a bigger disgrace to me is a college like Rutgers who runs at a deficit and has to charge students outlandish fees to fund their athletic department. At this point I feel college athletic departments are fueled by a higher level of greed and corruption than Wall Street. Players put their mental and physical wellbeing at risk, but can't be compensated, while athletic departments are paying 6 figure salaries to admins. Disgraceful. https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/as-college-sports-revenues-spike-…



December 30th, 2015 at 10:55 AM ^

Even a bigger disgrace to me is a college like Rutgers who runs at a deficit and has to charge students outlandish fees to fund their athletic department.

Are you sure that the outlandish fees are only to run their athletic department? I think that the outlandish fees (at all schools) are lining the pockets of the already wealthy, also.


December 30th, 2015 at 11:13 AM ^

I just picked out that Rutgers example cause the story insinuates without those fees the department would cease to operate. Aka Rutgers athletics is a failing business model that only operates due to those student fees.

Whereas you could argue Michigan and other high level athletic programs that bring in enough revenue via athletics and apparel contracts to fund the department without student fees.

All schools charge students some type of ridiculous fee, but Rutgers itself needs the fees or there would be no athletics.

The Mad Hatter

December 30th, 2015 at 11:03 AM ^

In 2004, University of Michigan Athletic Director William Martin made $361,000, and 15 of his administrative employees made $100,000 or more. Ten years later, Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon made $900,000, and the number of his administrative staffers making $100,000 or more had risen to 34.


I know the AD has plenty of $ to go around, but those kind of increases in pay and executive staffing levels would get a private sector CEO bounced out on his ass.  There's just no reason for it.


December 30th, 2015 at 1:29 PM ^

Yes, this is true.  Corporations seem to "value" the fact that their executive pay scale is higher than other corporations.  A corporate financial advisor I know once told me that many companies want to make sure that their executives are paid in the top 25 percent of their industry.  This essentially ensures that executive pay spirals upward, without any bearing on performance.

SC Wolverine

December 30th, 2015 at 12:32 PM ^

The explanation is that college athletics involves huge dollars, so there is increased competition for quality athletic directors.  This competition drives up all salaries in the industry, even when hires like DB don't work out.  Consider how much money was lost at Michigan Stadium when attendance started to drop under Brandon's/Hoke's leadership.  Literally millions every game were at stake based on marginal differences in performance.  In short, your and my willingness to pay serious cash to be fans has increased competition for salaries in the industry.

And I don't think Dabo Swinney is sweating an article criticizing his support staff when he is currently sitting at #1.  Nor do I think the Clemson administration feels they aren't getting their money's worth this year.


December 30th, 2015 at 12:39 PM ^

Hmmm I really see nothing wrong with this. Maybe the AD pay was a bit above executive-level salary inflation, but not by much. Sub-million compensation for a top-school AD? I'll take it.

And in a decade, fewer than 20 people/positions crossed the $100k threshold?

Yeah, that's reasonable salary. Not saying that athletic department spending isn't large, but it doesn't look excessive from the UM side.


December 30th, 2015 at 11:04 AM ^

I love the quote from Glass at Indiana, "Some of these titles get a little goofy." And the fact that after eliminating 10 positions he couldn't remember exactly what they did. 

Michigan is just as guilty, maybe even more so after the Brandon era. Hackett is clearly leaving that mess to his successor to clean up. 

Connecticut Wo…

December 30th, 2015 at 11:15 AM ^

to throw in the towel on football.  Spending millions of dollars on stadiums, indoor practice facilities, and student-athlete academic buildings, etc. is a losing proposition for MAC, Sun Belt, etc. teams who do so on the dream of making it to a large payout bowl game or the CFP.  The average MAC student subsidizes their athletic department with over $2,000 annually.  The growing tuition debt crisis in this country and the efforts of the Power 5 to squeeze out everyone else are going to take their toll on athletic programs in these smaller schools. 

Clarence Beeks

December 30th, 2015 at 12:16 PM ^

"Why should students that in most cases have no interest in athletics be forced to supplement a failing business model."

Because it increases the profile and name recognition of their school, and contributes to the school's sense of community. This is well covered in Brandon's Lasting Lessons. Ideally, yes, the AD should be self-sufficient, but it's not like there isn't an upside benefit for all students at the school from the work of the AD.

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Connecticut Wo…

December 30th, 2015 at 2:05 PM ^

Like everything else in the world of higher education budgets, it's not easily identified. The average contribution a MAC student makes to the athletic department budget (i.e., the general fund that comes from a student's "general fee") is closer to $1000 - this is the figure most journalists pick up because its the easiest to identify.  However, those budgets don't include the cost of building and, in most cases, maintaining the athletic facilities which are clearly a cost of running the business.  These costs typically run through a "Facilities" budget (which is typically funded by a student's cost of tuition, not the general fee) and are not charged back to the AD or, if they are, are done so at a highly discounted rate.  The estimates on that number vary widely based on the number of facilities, age/life of the facilities, philanthropic contributions (which at MAC schools are not significant for athletics), number of students and potential mixed use of buildings.

As some others have commented on this thread, such an analysis doesn't account for intangibles like advertising/recruiting, school spirit, and philanthropy.  But how much school spirit and good advertising did Northern Illinois earn from their 55-7 Poinsetta Bowl loss and Ohio University from its Camella Bowl loss to App State?   


December 30th, 2015 at 4:27 PM ^

So, you should probably use the $1000 figure, which is still high.  I found one article that states that Ohio U's yearly athletics fees are $850. 

Here's some actual data, which took me 4 minutes to Google:

University Total Fees Athletic Fees Athletic Fees 
(per credit)
% of Fees paid to Athletics
Miami of OH $789 $454 $41.24 57%
BGSU $684 $286 $23.86 48%
Ohio U $531 $253 $48.27 48%
Kent State $731 $271 $24.65 37%
Akron $1,384 $385 $32.05 28%
N. Illinois $946 $227 $18.88 24%
Buffalo $988 $237 $19.75 24%
E. Michigan $20/credit 7-12% of $20/credit $1.40-$2.40 7-12%
Ball State   $204 $17.03 5%
W. Michigan $412 $0 $0 0%
C. Michigan $0 $0 $0 0%

So, nowhere near $2000.  These are per semester from 2010-11.  Slightly out of date, but not old enough to really skew things.  The highest is $908 per year at Miami (NTM).  

Also, if you click the link for the report containing the sources of this data (http://et.kent.edu/jmc40004/fees/docs/MAC_student_fees.pdf), you'll see that there are separate fees for facilities.

Furthermore, while I think ALL fees need to be lowered, pickign athletics and saying "I don't go to the games, therefore why do I have to pay?" is not a good argument.  What if you don't go to the gym?  Should you not pay for that?  I don't ever go to North Campus, why should I have to pay for the bus system?  I don't utilize UHS, why should any of my money go to that? That's a very slippery slope.


December 30th, 2015 at 4:32 PM ^


But how much school spirit and good advertising did Northern Illinois earn from their 55-7 Poinsetta Bowl loss and Ohio University from its Camella Bowl loss to App State?


Again, a poor argument. You can't just select small things that support "students paying for athletics not good."

How much good advertising did Ohio U's NCAA win over Michigan do them? What's that worth?

SC Wolverine

December 30th, 2015 at 12:35 PM ^

The fact that they are doing the opposite is telling, however.  It turns out that having a football program increases loyalty to the school as a whole and has a very positive effect on student recruitment.  Would you want to go to a college that didn't have a football team?  Since we are discussing this on MGoBlog, the answer is probably no.  It may be ridiculous, but a football team is a strategic asset to a university, even if it is an expensive one.


December 30th, 2015 at 11:17 AM ^

A very disappointing piece.  Lots of description, no analysis (just a repetition of the narrative that things get bigger because there is just too much money).  The "free labor" canard is a dead giveaway.

There is a real problem, of course, and the WaPo piece does't completely get it wrong when it notes that the money involved in football has increased vastly, allowing for higher salaries.  It doesn't note that the various ADs are competing for a limited number of uniquely qualified people, so salaries are naturally going to increase if the money increases.  By what percentage has overall income in college sports increased in the time period 2004-2014?  You can't address the issue without addressing that.

The article would be analytical if it compared the growth in income from, say, the five teams with the highest growth in staff salaries with the five lowest.  If the staff salary increases aren't matched by program income increases, then the staff salaries are unjustified.  If they are, then the increases can be justified.

But, no, the WaPo writers would prefer to rely on aw shucks quotes from long-retired coaches who wonder why modern teams just can't do things identically to the way they did them in "the old days."


December 30th, 2015 at 11:34 AM ^

You make some valid points but saying the salaries are increasing because of having to pay for unique talent is a garbage argument. We had to overpay to get David Brandon because he was an experienced executive level corporate type, how'd that work out. How's it working out for Texas. An AD job is far from rocket science or the high level executive role they want you to believe it is.

Clarence Beeks

December 30th, 2015 at 12:13 PM ^

So a couple of things:

(1) We overpaid to get David Brandon because that's who Mary Sue Coleman wanted, even though the search committee determined he was by far the least qualified candidate of the group. The other, more qualified candidates would have come at a much lower price.

(2) It's a much more complicated role that you seem to believe, which is why the people qualified to fill the AD roles are in fact uniquely qualified. The problem (refer back to (1)) is when you fill that role with uniquely unqualified people.

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SC Wolverine

December 30th, 2015 at 12:38 PM ^

I kept wondering what old Bobby would do if his players back then got the public scrutiny that players do now, with the resulting controversies.  I also wonder how he would respond to failing recruiting because other teams had a better academic support staff.  I'll tell you what he would do -- demand a bigger and better paid staff.