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Bo Pelini's Raise - Tied to A College Football Playoff?

If there's a recession going on, you wouldn't know it by looking at college football coaches salaries. Bo Pelini gets a raise to $2.1M base, along with a contract extension, and an $500,000 incentive to stay at Nebraska into 2015, as he'll receive another half a million to stick around until January 31, 2015. The contract incentive for Pelini to stay is a good idea, and the obvious hope is that success and contentment allow him to stay at Nebraska.

You know it didn't take much for Bo Pelini to get the raise. Just some small talk, and boom, there it was. I can imagine it went something like this:  

"Gee, Tom, isn't it great that Turner Gill finally got a head coaching position in a big name conference and finally show what he's really made of."

"It sure is, Bo. Great to see he's finally getting his chance."

"Wow, look at how much they're paying him. That's a pretty good amount of money for being a football coach at a basketball school. Imagine how much they'd have paid him if he were a football coach at a football school".

And there you go, raises all around.

Pelini's brother, Carl, got a pay raise from $208,000 to $375,000, while Shawn Watson got a $500 raise to hit $380,000. Other assistants saw pay increases as well, with Marvin Sanders moving to $250,000; Tim Beck, Barney Cotton, Ron Brown and Ted Gilmore moving to $220,000; and Mike Ekeler and John Papuchis to $175,000.

In the long run, this could be a bad deal for college football coaches. Someone might start to take notice. After all, the federal government is running record deficits, 48 out of 50 state governments are having problems balancing their budgets, there are cuts at the University and the athletic department  just doled out $558,840 in new raises to coaches. Given that perspective, you have to ask yourself why.

Tom Osborne gives us the answer in an article at the Grand Island Independent:
"What's going on nationally has some effect in terms of you want to be within a reasonable range of what the market is,'' Osborne said. "Then, on the other hand, I don't necessarily want to see Nebraska be out in front, breaking new frontiers, because we have an economy that's not real strong, we have university employees who are getting no salary increases, and we have budget cuts in other areas.

In other words, the market is forcing his hand. Coaches salaries continue to increase, and he doesn't want to be in a position where someone good leaves because they're enticed by more money. That's easy to understand.

Unfortunately, giving coaches salary increases while colleges are being forced to cut budgets, both academically and athletically, does nothing but raise big red flags (of the wrong kind) in Washington at the same time they're making noise about the BCS cartel, the Sherman Act and mandating a playoff system. It wouldn't take all that much for the feds to add an antitrust exemption as part of a playoff mandate so that the NCAA establish uniform salaries and effectively end that arms race.

If the government is convinced that a playoff be more equitable, and would bring in more money, it would be stupid if they didn't add the antitrust exemption - why would they bring more money into college football and then give it away to coaches who are already overpaid as it is? You saw what they did to the financial sector, didn't you?

While Nebraska's athletic department is one of the very few that are self-sustained, the Huskers don't play football in a vacuum. Most other athletic departments around the nation are subsidized by their universities. With universities universally feeling the pain of the economy, change is bound to happen. An antitrust exemption for the NCAA to establish uniform salaries might save a number of programs and level the playing field.

Maybe Bo Pelini and his assistants had better get their money while they can.