Half a billion dollars.
The cost for NASA to launch a space shuttle into orbit is $450 million. The estimated cost that Flint, Mich., will have to pay to fix its water crisis is $400 million. Private islands are going for up to $65 million these days.
And in the last 11 years, NCAA schools have spent half a billion dollars — $533.6 million, to be exact — on coaches that are no longer coaching.
ESPN reported today that FBS schools have spent that exorbitant amount in dead money on football and men’s and women’s basketball coaches who were terminated before their contracts expired. The numbers are drawn between the first day of 2010 and the first day of 2021, with the biggest payouts reportedly coming from Auburn at $31.2 million, Nebraska at $25.8 million, and Texas at $21.5 million — again, for coaches to simply not coach anymore.
That’s $330,769 per victory for Nebraska’s 78 wins in that time frame, by the way.
This number doesn’t even include this year’s slate of CFB coach sackings, set to be a record-breaking number of in-season firings for the sport. LSU’s Ed Orgeron will receive $16.9 million over the next three years for not coaching the Tigers.
Think about how many scholarships for at-need, at-risk students could have been funded with that money instead.
Throughout the years of the pay-for-play debate, we’ve heard experts and schools say that there’s simply not enough money to pay student-athletes. While the pay-for-play model has its issues, this half a billion is offensive and a slap in the face to student-athletes subject to that argument. Furthermore, anti-NIL advocates expressed that allowing NCAA athletes to receive payment would somehow ruin the integrity of the sport by forgoing the amateur model that makes the NCAA unique. If we’re going to talk about integrity, the NCAA model is probably not the best place to start.
Half a billion not to coach, while the NCAA cracks down on $200 and $300 infractions from student-athletes, stripping teams of their national titles and imposing harsh restrictions. The United States is the only country in the world with such an extreme model of amateur sports, in which we’re willing to spend seemingly unlimited amounts of money on the sport, and so very little on the athletes participating in the system. The NCAA only wants to talk about integrity when it comes to the student-athletes. When it comes to the amount of money colleges choose to spend on the programs, the coaches, and in this case, the coaches who are no longer coaching, it’s radio silence.
As coaches rake in tens of millions of dollars while student-athletes have, up until June 2021, been told to be happy with a scholarship and the opportunity, colleges largely refuse to acknowledge the ethical and financial disparities between players and coaches. Coaches are a part of bringing in the money, to be sure — as a top-tier football or basketball school, you’d want to be able to recruit and retain a coach that keeps your team playing at a high level — but when it comes down to it, the players are the ones bringing in the profits for the school with their labor. How did we get to a point where colleges feel the need to pay such ludicrous amounts of money to sign these coaches, with no real commitment to seeing them through these multi-million dollar contracts? Why are there no overarching restrictions on coaching salaries?
Well, Congress is asking these questions as part of NCAA antitrust and NIL hearings. The issue of NCAA-regulated salary caps was last discussed in early 2020, but Congressional examinations into NCAA regulations, specifically surrounding name, image, and likeness, are set to continue happening. In part, these discussions involve whether NIL earnings can be capped by schools, which has brought up the question of whether coaches’ salaries should be capped as well.
Half a billion not to coach. The NCAA model is long due for some changes, and the next decade might look very different financially for them. But in this case, it’s not fair to place all the blame on the NCAA. The individual schools and the market are largely responsible for this enormous waste of dead money. If these universities are really institutions of higher education, why do they so closely resemble professional sports leagues (except for the part where players get paid)?