The Daily Tar Heel recently published an analysis of the latest budget of UNC’s Department of Athletics.  While expenses in the $75 million budget are slated to increase by about 4%, salaries and benefits will increase a generous 11.7%.  Apparently there are “contractual obligations” to coaches based on all sorts of incentive clauses in their contracts. 

In my opinion, individuals should be free to seek the compensation they think they deserve, and employers should be free to compensate as needed to secure the best employees, so I do not envy the football coaches or basketball coaches or athletic directors whose salaries place them in the very upper percentiles of university compensation.  I do, however, believe that the 1.2% increase in compensation that state employees are scheduled to receive does oblige the citizens of the university to ask some questions about an increase of 11.7% for our athletics colleagues.

First, what effect does the athletics revenue stream have on the ability of the university to carry out its mission of advancing research, scholarship and creativity?  For example, UNC has struggled with faculty retention in recent years.  Talented faculty are recruited away by other prestigious universities.

Currently, there are two rewards systems in public universities.  The academic system is driven by state budgets, tuition, acquisition of external grants, and the generosity of donors.  The other—in athletics—is propelled by entirely different incentives of media contracts, corporate sponsorships, ticket sales, and, remarkably, student athletic fees.  We have ample evidence of the harmful effects of a wild athletic revenue model on the university’s mission, so perhaps it is time to acknowledge this and send the athletics enterprise off into the world of professional sports leagues.

Second, in the face of this lucrative revenue stream, how do we justify and accept the fact that the athletes from whose talents these revenues flow do not have the right to a financial return?  Even if one accepts the unsupportable claim that their scholarships are fair compensation, are their stipends increasing by 11.7%? 

Third, where in its budget does the department of athletics compensate faculty, students, and staff for the harm of the damaged integrity of the university?  Academic dishonesty involving athletes now appears to reach back at least 12 years and likely beyond.  While we have been told that the department of athletics will pay for some of the mounting legal and other investigatory expenses, the cost of the damage to the integrity of the university is not so transparently assessed.

Finally, do these contractual obligations mean that Butch Davis will see an increase in the $590,000 that he is receiving for the next three years?  In fact, can anybody explain why this former head coach is receiving any compensation, given the harm to the university that has been disclosed under his watch? 

I hope that the coaches make good use of their 11.7% increase in compensation.  I have already decided what charities to support with my 1.2%.