Are college coaches and administrators saying, in effect, ‘It’ll cost extra if you want me to perform at a high level’?
University of Illinois trustees this week approved a raise and contract extension for athletic director Josh Whitman.
Good for him. His bosses are pleased with his work, praised him effusively and rewarded him with a generous pay package that runs through June 2024.
By 2023-24, he’ll be making $850,000, compared to his base salary of $600,000 when he was hired in 2016.
Some people probably think that’s too much money. After all, he’s making more than the generously paid UI president and chancellor.
But when the marketplace speaks, those who wish to compete in the marketplace must listen.
UI trustee Ed McMillan pointed out that Whitman’s compensation puts him in the bottom third of the Big Ten on compensation.
“It’s not as if we’re moving him significantly higher in his relationship to other athletic directors,” McMillan said.
That fact speaks to the funny-money atmosphere of big-time college sports, where television revenues have helped drive compensation through the roof. After all, by some head basketball and football coaches’ standards, Whitman’s pay is chump change.
Still, it’s time to pick a nit when it comes to coaches’ and athletic directors’ compensation packages.
They are being paid tons of money to do tough jobs. So why do they need to be paid bonuses if they do a tough job well?
Here are a couple of examples for football coaches.
Memphis’ Mike Norvell gets $35,000 for a sixth season win and $55,000 for a seventh and another $35,000 for an eighth win.
Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck, who just signed a multimillion-dollar contract extension as a reward for the great year his team is having, is due $75,000 for a sixth win.
In Whitman’s case, his current contract makes him eligible for $200,000 in annual bonuses based on academic, athletic and fundraising goals. That will jump to $250,000 under his new contract.
This is the way the negotiating game is played these days. If coaches and athletic directors don’t ask for performance bonuses, they don’t get them. If they do ask, they do get them. So it’s human nature to ask, even though the practice is at odds with the concept of being a conscientious employee.
Is the base pay just a reward for showing up while the bonuses represent an incentive for showing up and performing well?
The critics will defend this practice as just the way business is done, suggesting that dissenters just don’t understand. The dissenters understand just fine, they just don’t like the message this practice sends.
That’s not Whitman’s fault. He’s a creature of the system, not the creator of the system.