Six Years Later, My Question is Answered

You would have to be a Coyote Blog old-timer to remember back in January of 2007 when I asked

Is there any state where a college men's football or basketball coach is not the highest paid state official?

Robert Fischer-Baum, via Ilya Somin, has the answer.  In forty states, the highest paid state employee is a university football or basketball coach.  In all fifty states, the highest paid public employee works for a state university.   Which brings us back to my post earlier today.   Government student loans are to university payrolls as quantitative easing is to stock prices.


  1. tjic:

    In this case, being a coyote old-timer still isn't enough. ;-)

  2. Sam from Alaska:

    My Guess Alaska would be one of the states where a football coach would not be a state official. My guess is that it would be the head of the Alaska Permanent Fund

  3. Matthew Slyfield:

    Per the link, the highest paid public official for Alaska is the college president.

  4. obloodyhell:

    }}} In forty states, the highest paid state employee is a university football or basketball coach. In all fifty states, the highest paid public employee works for a state university.

    You can hardly complain when the highest paid employee is a med school prof or dean, or a law school dean... or the university's president. These are all positions that seems quite reasonable that they would be very highly paid.

    And as far as the football or basketball coach, they bring in more money to the university as a whole than any other person in the entire state, even if they aren't spectacular at their jobs. The bring prestige and notoriety to the school as well.

    Yes, I saw the argument that the money ends in the athletic programs in many cases, and there's a net inflow of money to athletics. Are you proposing the abolition of all "official" athletic programs, then? Get rid of the official Lacrosse, softball, baseball, golf, tennis, volleyball, gymnastics, track and field, swimming, diving, etc.? Because it's a fair bet that, without the money brought in by the f/b programs, the states would have to contribute MORE money to keep these programs afloat.

    And... doesn't your son have a baseball scholarship? Even though I suspect you make more than an ample amount of money to pay for his attendance? I don't mean that unreasonably -- I'm just pointing out that you appear to be taking advantage of that thing you're complaining about... sports programs -- athletes with scholarships -- which are strongly paid for by the very sports programs at issue. Seems... a bit whack.

  5. wg:

    I gather it's a bit more complex than that. Officials at Duke say an appearance by the Blue Devils in the Final Four dramatically increases the number of applications the school receives the following year. More applications means increased selectivity, which in turn helps Duke inch up that all-important U.S. News Poll; i.e., increased prestige. What's that worth? Too, some schools make fortunes off their successful athletic programs, so the salaries can be seen as a necessary cost in an extremely competitive business. And while it is impossible to say with precision what effect athletic success has on alumni giving at many schools, I gather it can be substantial. My guess is even without cheap student loans, coaches' salaries would be stratospheric, simply because university athletics has become an enormous, tentacular enterprise with a huge fan base that includes millions who who never even attended college. What's interesting is that there is no equivalent of our university athletic system in any other country on earth.

  6. drB:

    I think it would be reasonable to abolish all athletic programs unless athletics as a whole is profitable for school...and there are about 7 schools in US where athletics is profitable. I do not see a point of taxpayer-supported entertainment.

  7. dc:

    seriously, are colleges making *that* much money off of ticket and t shirt sales that they can justify paying these exorbitant salaries?

    oh right, we forgot about that whole rent seeking aspect of all of this!

    take away the rent seeking complex that is basically the himalayas to the everest of the athletic programs, and these coaches would be making 20% of what they're pulling in right now.

  8. marque2:

    I think the coaches mostly get paid with booster funds and do bring in revenue. Even if the school only gets 3/4 of his salary in ticket sales, that is much more than the governor of your state brings in as real revenue.

    It would be interesting if states when on a service / revenue model rather than a confiscatory tax model.

  9. marque2:

    The net inflo of funds thing is also a bit of a canard. All schools in state colleges have info of funds, because the claim is the inflo is from the state, and not student generated. If they complain about students wanting to study to be great athletes they should also complain about the Sociology department and Psychology department taking funds from the state and granting equally worthless degrees.

  10. obloodyhell:

    Ummmm.... some of you guys may not grasp what "boosters" pay to be boosters.

    UF has a stadium (11th largest in the NCAA -- and the largest in Florida, including pro teams) that seats (officially) 88,548 people. It appears to average 21,500 tickets for the band and the students. Another 8500 are also offered (not always sold, in which case unsold tickets revert to UF) to the opposing team. so that's about 30k off the 88.5k tickets.

    The rest go to boosters, who pay, in addition to the ticket prices, a minimum 250 dollar "booster fee". Simple math tells you that the booster fees alone are not less than 58.5k times $250 == 14.6 million dollars... Then there's the 105 bucks per student ticket... another 2 million bucks. And we haven't even added in the face-value ticket price for the alumni/boosters.

    Then there's the "Bull Gator" program: "Bull Gator membership requires an annual contribution of $15,000 or more". There are over 800 Bull Gators.

    None of this revenue includes the wealth of a successful (read: bowl-eligible) football program, which, with all the bowls, is about 1/3rd of the "Division 1-A" (yeah, I know they changed the name, they can kiss my ass) teams.

    Granted, UF is blessed with A LOT of very LOYAL fans, but still... I don't have any question that there are at least another two or three dozen programs -- probably more -- that are out there which generate quite a large cash flow for the university's athletic departments.

  11. obloodyhell:

    I can accept that argument, but it's not merely that. The main entertainment itself (FB/BB) is fully supported. It's the "lesser" ("less profitable") sports which really benefit from this, because they are the ones that the excess of FB and BB revenues pay for.

    And, as a popular SEC commercial notes, "the majority of sports scholarship recipients go on to careers in something other than sports."

    So you're really talking about de-funding scholarships in a way, and that's going to have to be financed by some other mechanism... or not have people go to college.

    I suspect the sports types are, more often than not, getting actually useful degrees. Not a lot of "Medaeval English Lit" majors coming from the Lacrosse programs, I'd think.,

  12. marque2:

    It is also pretty hypocritical. With the boosters and Ticket sales the sports department does bring in some revenue - even if it still has to be supported by school funds.

    But what other department brings in their own revenue from the students? They all use student tuition to pay for courses. Why shouldn't athletics also use student tuition to pay for the athletics? Not every athlete at school has a full scholarship.

  13. drB:

    First, from what I see in my school there are next to no engineering/hard sciences majors among athletes (football + basketball). Most choose fairly useless majors and there are plenty scandals that schools beg profs not to fail these athletes or schools let them through with low GPA's. Second, there are scholarships other than athletic - why don't the athletes fund their studies just like everyone else.

    And in general sports lowers GPA of students:

  14. drB:

    First, students can choose which department to study for. They can not opt out of athletic fees. Second, most engineering departments as well as chemistry and biology bring in overhead from grant money from private and federal foundations, and at good schools that overhead is larger than profs salaries that universities pay them. Your remark shows that you have no idea as to how universities operate. Additionally, throwing a football is not an educational endeavor and will not help in discovery of new drug, building of new oil refinery or anything like that. It is purely entertainment and as such should not be mixed in with education. What is next, strippers paid for by students tuition? At least that would require less subsidies than sports, while having equal usefulness in education.

  15. marque2:

    What are you talking about, what athletic fees are the being forced into. When I went to USC, we could optionally purchase a pass for all games basketball, football, baseball, and was given a yearbook as well for $100. One year I chose to buy the pass, one year I didn't. Same at San Jose State.

    The profs who bring in money support a whole different part of the University, the post docs and research staff, and it doesn't go to the students. In fact the student tuition tends to subsidize these prof's lifestyle while students pay top notch fees to get some grad student paid minimum wage to teach them. And even more sad - the tuition from students who go to the business school which usually accounts for 25 - 40% of enrollment is use to subsidize all the other departments - yup that sociology Prof is not making it from government grants, that prof is making it by sucking from the business department - And you claim to know something about Universities - sheesh

    Third who says kinesiology is any less valid a pursuit than say - sociology. If a student is accepted to college based on a skill - and wants to pursue perfecting that skill it is just as valid an endeavour as any other. You are being quite elitist, that studying Psychology, History, or Sociology, Communications, is good, but studying how your own body works, is bad. There finer points as well in sports, which require intellect - much like chess. Can you figure how to move a basketball from one end of the court to the other, knowing your teammates skills, and guessing at the skills of an opponent. Can that apply to strategizing in a company later in life?

    Fourth point, Most of the degrees granted from college will not result in finding a new drug, building an oil refinery, or anything like that. Should we get rid of those degrees as well? We should probably shut down the whole fine arts department - it sucks from the rest of the University and provides almost nothing. And how about those music scholarships - playing the fiddle sure ain't going to invent a new drug - heck 95% of the western world doesn't even listen to classical music any more - what a waste - no? Lets cut Humanities as well? Just leave the school of engineering and school of Business and maybe leisure studies, since we could use a vacation!

    Fifth point - what subsidies, but the standards sports haters use, every department is subsidized. The business department, fine arts, humanities, engineering, all take from the Universities coffers. The only department that has its own revenue stream is the sports department, so technically they are subsidized much much less than any other department in school.

    Just cuz you were a nerd like me in college doesn't mean you have to take it out on the jocks, cast half crocked aspersions on them and the department.

  16. drB:

    First, there is a separate "athletic fee" on student fee bill at a school where I am from. Additionally, where does the $20M subsidy for athletics come from other than students? See for example

    Second, research grants that profs get are subdivided into two parts. About 2/3 are used to pay for grad students, postdocs, and facilities. One third is so-called "overhead", which is taken by university and used for whatever they please. And at good schools engineering, chemistry, and biology profs bring in more OVERHEAD than university pays their salaries.You have no clue about that, do you?

    Third, most people who graduate from engineering do bring benefit to society in form of some industrial output or technological development. They also need humanity classes if they want to be successful, so I am not saying that sociology should be abolished. However, they most definitely do NOT need skills in football or basketball throwing to be successful.

    Fourth, I participated in sports while I was at school (not in US). I did that by being in a team and not while growing lard ass by overeating and overdrinking in audience. Our coach earned average salary and not $gazillion.

    Fifth, what about "intellect" needed for sports? Have you looked at GPA's of football players, for example at Tennessee?
    It appears that intellect is not really required there, and if it is not required, then probably athletics has no place at universities (other than varsity which is perfectly OK).

  17. marque2:

    Dude I was going to comment, but you just killing yourself. Stop the hate.

    "Fifth, what about "intellect" needed for sports? Have you looked at GPA's of football players, for example at Tennessee?"

    This takes the cake. Lets see you coach a basketball team successfully and then we can talk. I sure just as the basketball players may be "dumb" in engineering subjects, you are just as much of a moron when it comes to sports. Can't you appreciate that peoples intellects represent themselves in different ways?

    Also yeah, one or two departments actually can make a "profit" from government grants for often dubious projects - (notably engineering and business but all the others are sucking from that overhead. And again most of the others are living off of student tuition, not generating their own funds. Oh and then average salary for a prof is 160K now, the President of the University, in a lower end state school now is typically 500K with free housing and travel/car benefits. (EG President of SDSU gets 400K plus housing/travel/car - coach gets 800K straight) not really much of a difference.

    I think as an intellectual, you should try to expand and open your mind.

  18. drB:

    I actually did participate at sports when I was younger and did reasonably well. Besides YOU claimed that sports requires intellect...and example of Tennessee players show that it does not - intelligent people would be able to do well in next to any study field.

    Furthermore, in chem engineering departments that I have knowledge about most of the grants come from Big Oil. This is what you call government? I am sure that petroleum engineering, and even mechanical or computer would get most grants from industry. This simply shows your total ignorance, just like ignorance as to what the grants fund where you did not know that overhead exists.

    I agree with you that University bureaucrats and part of senior profs are overpaid - just like football/basketball coaches. Salary of all those should be lowered. However, they are not overpaid nearly as much as coaches, and they actually perform something useful for education.

    What is next, student-fee supported beer-drinking parties where you have to pay in even if you do not use beer? I do not see how this is different from forced support of sports in the way of fees (which you also were unaware of). Philosophy students are not forced to support engineering department via their fees, but they all are forced to support athletic department.

  19. markm:

    This isn't just the highest paid public university employees - it's the highest paid state employees of any sort. According to Wikipedia (possibly outdated by a few years), the highest salary for any governor is $179,000 (New York), and the average is $124,000. So even when there isn't a coach with an out-sized salary, the top university admistrators are paid far more than state officials.

    And we pay for this through taxes - direct subsidies to universities, indirect subsidies in the form of tuition grants, and even more indirect subsidies in the form of the government eventually picking up unpaid student loans when students pay more than they'll ever make. If the government provides easy money for kids to go to college, the colleges can raise their rates, and they've got to do *something* with all the money.

  20. markm:

    So it's marketing. Why? Does an institution like Duke actually need to attract more applications? And what is the effect of admitting chowderheads who picked a college by the football team on the educational experience of those who actually want to learn something?