Don’t break bank for football coaches
As the University of Michigan ponders hiring its third football coach in the past four years, it’s time for president Mark Schlissel to take a bold step in the changing the outlandish compensation of coaches nationwide to one that is more in line with that for university faculty.
As with faculty where job security and compensation are tied to scholarship, so too should the compensation of coaches.
To do so, Schlissel must eliminate the practice of offering the nationwide, multi-year, shamefully high salary compensation packages.
Instead, during the coach’s initial five years — equivalent to the faculty’s probationary period, the time frame at many universities for assessing whether or not to award tenure and promotion to faculty — he would be provided a base salary equivalent to the average salary of a tenured full professor at the university.
His annual compensation could not fall below this base salary, regardless of the performance on the field.
As there would be no contract, there would be no buyout provisions during this five-year probationary period and the coach could be terminated, as faculty can be, for no cause.
The coach would then be awarded a supplement based upon the performance of the football team on the field, not unlike how faculty can supplement their salary if they succeed in obtaining grant funds.
A hypothetical performance-based supplement for coaches would be an addition of $250,000 for each game won, offset by a loss of $200,000 for each game lost.
Thus, if a coach went 15-0 by presumably winning their conference championship and two games in the College Football Playoff, he would be compensated to a tune of $3.75 million, plus their base salary.
If the team had a mediocre year but was still bowl eligible, say a 6-6 record, the coach’s compensation would be $300,000, plus base salary, plus a possible $250,000 bonus if they should win their bowl game.
However, if they lost in the bowl game and ended up having a losing season, 6-7, the coach would receive only their base salary, which would still be equivalent to that of faculty who are contributing to the core mission of the university, education and research.
At the end of the probationary period the coach could be awarded tenure, with a five-year, non-extendible contract including a raise in base salary, equivalent to that offered faculty. A modest change in his performance-based supplement could be appropriate — $275,000 per win, offset by $200,000 per loss.
If during the contractual period the university opted to terminate the coach, the buyout provision would be based upon the number of years remaining on the contract times the average total compensation for the previous years under contract.
If not terminated during the five-year contract, the coach would undergo a review, akin to post-tenure review, to determine if another five-year contract should be awarded. As with faculty, should the coach fail the post-tenure review, he would be provided with one year of their base salary to find another job.
Realistically, it would be unlikely that any coach would not succeed in the post-tenure review, as he would likely have been released during the contract period for lack of performance with the above-mentioned buyout provision.
Such a performance-based compensation would mirror the system for evaluation of university faculty serving the university’s mission, and would lend credibility to the idea that the athletic department is part of the university and not simply a minor league venue for potential professional athletes.
It would provide outstanding compensation to those coaches who, through on-field results, actually deserve it.
The current system provides outlandish compensation to any coach, independent of their success on the field.
Craig W. Davis is a 1972 alumnus of the University of Michigan.
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