Wetzel: Harbaugh's salary not the problem in college sports

Submitted by ChiCityWolverine on October 28th, 2016 at 12:49 PM

Interesting article from Dan Wetzel. He's generally one of the more intelligent national writers out there, and the release of Harbaugh's updated compensation for this year brought about an actually interesting piece. No hot takes about whether Harbaugh is "worth it" or deserves to be the highest paid HC like those from ESPN and other outlets to be found here.

The focus shouldn’t be on Harbaugh, per se. Instead it should center on some or even many of the other 343 of his co-workers in Ann Arbor. Good and talented people, one and all we’re sure, but they represent, in ever growing numbers, the National Collegiate Athletic Industrial Complex that finds ways to spend money on themselves before popular football teams like Harbaugh’s Wolverines can even earn it.

This instead delves into Athletic Department spending and athlete compensation, attacking practices within major college athletics that sound relatively Brandon-esque. Wetzel also dismisses the notion that Harbaugh isn't worth the money spent to the University because OBVIOUSLY he is.

Worth a read: Link



October 28th, 2016 at 1:10 PM ^

When he mentioned how the athletic department increased its employees' and their salaries, I kinda had to roll my eyes because thanks to John U. Bacon, I know why that happened.

Thanks Brandon... /eyeroll


October 28th, 2016 at 1:30 PM ^

The non-coaching football staff and the salaries of the football coaches not named Harbaugh have bloated dramatically with Harbaugh's arrival under Hackett's watch. That's not on Brandon. That's about Hackett, the University and its donors wanting a fucking dominant football team. And I'm all for it. But don't blame Brandon unless you want to give him credit for creating a tire fire that had to be extinguished and cleaned up.


October 28th, 2016 at 1:50 PM ^

I wasn't talking about the football non-coaching staff.  He directly referenced the 340+ employees in the athletic department, which was a substantial increase from 2011. And how the number of those employees making 6 figures jumped from 30 to 81 within the last 6 years.

Don't get me wrong, I am all for the raise in salary and staff in the football program.  It is well earned. I just had to stop and shudder when I read that bit of the article because of what was detailed in Bacon's book.


October 28th, 2016 at 1:23 PM ^

Michigan has dozens of men's and women's varsity teams. Those teams need support, they need administrative help, they need logisitical assistance, and they need financial resources to compete. I don't think 343 sounds like it's way out of line.


October 28th, 2016 at 1:33 PM ^

That seems like quite a few, considering many of them would seem to only need a couple of coaches to oversee (rowing? men's water polo? women's water polo? men's golf?)

Even considering how many you'd need for football (40? 50?), that's still 300 admins/coaches to cover sports you'd figure need 4-8 people, at most, per team (which should only give you 150-200).


October 28th, 2016 at 1:24 PM ^

The "administrator / assistant coach" industrial complex is how programs like EMU, WMU, CMU, etc get buried by programs like U of M, who can find ways to spend our $100+ million, and still not have a deficit.  Combine that with the difference in facilities, and the budgets are crazily out of whack.

I'd love to see some regents from EMU, WMU etc, say "We can't continue to do this. Losing $15 million/year to play D1 football and basketball doesn't make sense, esp when we are firing academic employees to make up for that."

But they don't. They appear to believe in magic, and the "branding" of D1 spots, so $15-$20 million gets diverted every year.


October 28th, 2016 at 2:21 PM ^

MSU could be profitable pretty easily -- for example, they were only $700,00 in the red last year; you fire a few six-figure admins, and boom, you are there.

And I'm definitely aware Power 5 schools, like Maryland and Rutgers have issues -- after all, that's a big reason why the B1G is blessed with having freaking Rutgers in our conference.

But MAC schools aren't joining the B1G; they don't have access to BTN money. So they need to cut, and cut soon.

Sextus Empiricus

October 28th, 2016 at 2:38 PM ^

support staff not decrease.

It's a have and have not issue.  The conference money will go away in 5-10 years when the cable model breaks for good (unless the BTN becomes what it is not - a truly open streamable and affordable internet distribution network for all B1G sports.)  

If MSU wants to play they need lose money in the short term and build their brand (which they are doing as long as Dantonio is there at least.)

I don't want to be in a B1G without Wisconsin and MSU.

The MAC needs to move to Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday and build their own market IMO.  (Please let's leave Friday to HS ball - as long as it is viable.)  But yeah... they are worse off than any P5 school by an (a) order (s) of magnitude.

Rutgers... I can do without.  Can I get a witness.




October 28th, 2016 at 3:10 PM ^

I've actually always wondered why the MAC and other mid-level conferences don't divorce themselves of the traditional spread of college football timing, if you will, and try to build something solid by having more games in the middle of the week. They would be the only ones doing it, and I dare say people like many of us here who will watch a game because it is simply on would tune in and they might be surprised about the number of eyes they get. It may not be a huge figure, but I wonder if it would be better for them than being buried among larger matchups on Saturdays (and Fridays sometimes, come to think of it). 


October 28th, 2016 at 1:25 PM ^

I heard a clip of them talking about this yesterday in essence saying there are only 3 coaches worth that in the country and Harbaugh is one. The other two are Saban and Meyer. They say to look at the value to a university and it's football program, those are coaches that can turn a program around within a year or two. I agree with both and I agree that those three are well worth their salary. The 9 million is a drop in the hat to what he's brought in with the Nike contract, TV ratings, stadium is filled for even Hawaii, bowl games and hopefully a shot at the CFP championship. 

Sextus Empiricus

October 28th, 2016 at 1:37 PM ^

I call bullshit on that.  

My haute take... you can stop reading now - or just neg and move on

  • Harbaugh is the new poster child of this issue - we/he needs to own that
  • Players in revenue sports need more compensation proportionate to the income they bring in
  • Adjustment needs to be made per Title IX - to give equal/or just compensation to women in proportion to the law and the revenue the women's sports bring in.
  • Head coaching salary in Football/Basketball (and all revenue sports in the top 40ish schools) needs to be capped (and adjusted by a just economic analysis.)
  • Support staff compensation needs to be capped smiilarly.
  • Schools need to be limited in support staff.

Football is not a revenue sport at most schools.  The disparity in income and opportunity mirrors our economy.  I don't want to get political but there are social forces here that CFB Football is subject to just like any other industry.



October 28th, 2016 at 2:30 PM ^

I agree that capping salaries would help level the playing field among teams, but an agreement by D1 schools not to pay coaches any more than X sounds like collusion, just like if all tech companies agreed not to pay programmers any more than X. Maybe the schools could impose a cap on the total of the coaching staff salaries without raising antitrust issues.



October 28th, 2016 at 1:48 PM ^

Some interesting points, but some logical disconnects. Wetzel's point that income could be spent on non-revenue sports scholarships rather than being reinvested into athletic departments is true and makes sense. On the other hand, his statement that money from football is spent on anything but the relaxing of name and likeness restrictions that would allow athletes to make their own money doesn't particularly make sense. It's not as if this is the choice of individual athletic departments, nor does allowing an athlete to take receive payment for product endorsement amount to an expenditure by the athletic department.  I suppose to a certain extent, allowing athletes to make money on name and likeness could canibalize some of the licensing money that colleges receive, but it seems remotely connected and that these were just thrown in as a general gripe: university=rich and greedy; athletes=poor and needy

Sextus Empiricus

October 28th, 2016 at 2:25 PM ^

then schools need to sell their ability to make that happen for them when they are recruited.  This opens too many cans with too many agent like worms.

I'm not against it, but this will break the tribal/school based model for CFB that we all love.

Again... I am not against it.  But it's great to be a Wolverine.  At least for the time being.


October 28th, 2016 at 1:53 PM ^

This article rather saavily draws recent Olympic heroes like Simone Biles (who is ineligible to compete in NCAA competition as a professional) and Katie Ledecky (who, due in part to financial security afforded by a wealthy family, had declined professional opportunities) to make good points and drive the dagger into the NCAA's stupidity.

Gymnasts are a great example here because their athletic prime generally occurs before they are old enough to go to college; the money to be made is available when they are 18. The NCAA loses significantly by making them choose now. How better to grow a non-revenue sport like gymnastics than to, say, hold competitive meets in which Simone Biles and Lauri Hernandez are competing against each other?

A legit worry is that a full abrogation of the NIL restrictions could lead to a Wild West situation in areas like recruiting.

But we already have a Wild West situation in which money is getting thrown at administrators and recruiting is bananas anyway, yet the kids cannot even make a dime for being well known.

Let them profit from NIL rights. If things get out of balance, fix them. Better to have the money over the table than under it.


October 28th, 2016 at 1:59 PM ^

BTW, I think the big fear with NIL rights for players would be the possibility of apparel companies like Nike becoming the power brokers of the sport, something already being seen in some ways in basketball.

I don't think that fear is unfounded. Nike and Adidas and UA could indeed cause serious issues. The solution seems simple: restrict athletes from being compensated by apparel companies that sponsor or equip teams.

True Blue Grit

October 28th, 2016 at 2:13 PM ^

limited to just college football head coaches, or even college football in general.  Why are $60 million dollar plus high school stadiums being built?  Why are $2 billion domed stadiums with gourmet restaurants and video screens the size of Delaware being built?  Why are ML pitchers with mediocre won-loss records getting $100 million contracts?  Why does it cost hundreds of dollars for a family to attend any pro sports event you can name?  And why is all this happening despite poverty existing in every state, the infrastructure crumbling, education being of such poor quality in most school districts, and medical care being too expensive for many people to afford - to name a few things?

It's because sports entertain people and takes their minds off all these other difficult to solve problems that we don't want to think about.  


October 28th, 2016 at 2:27 PM ^

The way that I see it is Michigan Football is a "brand" with a market value of $250 million or more.   As CEO of a "corporation" of that size, Jim Harbaugh is worth every penny of what he is being paid. 

Crisler 71

October 28th, 2016 at 2:55 PM ^

The problem with allowing endorsements is the same as allowing the athlete to work for money.  It turns bagmen into agents.

SEC bagman #1; "Come to our school and I can promise 6 endorsement agreements, each for $10,000."

SEC bagman #2: "Six for $10,000!! I can promise four for a total of $80.000.  That's twice as much money for half as much work."  (remember these are SEC folks).

SEC Bagman #1: "I can add another six for $25000 each if you become Sll American"


And the bidding war continues.


October 28th, 2016 at 10:13 PM ^

On page 156, Bacon writes that by 2012, the staff had increased from 261 to 342.  So almost all of the net increase in staff cited in Wetzel's article can be attributed to just one year of Dave Brandon.

Bacon also notes that much of the increase was concentrated in a few areas, notably something called "development" (12 to 28) and facilities staff (from 21 to 57).