Something Is Wrong With Our Priorities When University Sports Coaches Make More Than Governors

0424-bohl-hakstol

Earlier today I wrote about proposed increases in pay for North Dakota’s executive branch elected officials. Per Governor Jack Dalrymple’s proposed budget, the officials (including the governor himself) would get an 11.4% increase in pay by 2015 over their 2012 levels.

People tend to get pretty wound up about how much public officials make, but I really don’t find these pay increases all that controversial. The salaries aren’t really all that high, and spread out over time these increases are fairly modest.

What I find far more controversial is the fact that the governor, and the lieutenant governor and the rest of our statewide elected officials make far less than other, far less important state employees make.

We could talk about officials such as North Dakota University System chancellor Hamid Shirvani who upon taking that position got a year-over-year raise that is larger than the governor’s entire salary (Shirvani now makes $349,000/year, as compared to the governor’s $113,594 salary in 2012), but the most glaring problem comes from the state’s sports programs.

Dave Hakstol, the head coach of the University of North Dakota’s hockey team, has a $300,000/year base salary, thanks to a new six-year extension signed earlier this year, with bonuses potentially adding another $135,000/year. Craig Bohl, head coach of North Dakota State University’s Bison football team, just signed an eight-year contract extension worth $206,503 with a minimum 5% annual raise, 3% of gross ticket sales and $42,500/year worth of performance incentives.

These are lavish contracts, and all the more so when you consider that the sports programs at NDSU and UND aren’t profitable. Many people assume that the hockey and football programs bring in revenues for the universities, but it’s not true. According to numbers from the NCAA, even after revenues from things like ticket sales and merchandise are included, both UND and NDSU have to subsidize their programs to the tune of millions of dollars (and hundreds of dollars per student) every year.

So not only are these coaches making big money as the heads of heavily-subsidized sports programs, but they make far more money than the officials we elect to make laws and govern the state.

Perhaps it’s a sign of our society’s priorities. In the media world, for instance, Fox News is the king of cable news ratings dominating all other networks including CNN and MSNBC, but dominating all of them routinely is ESPN.

The sports and entertainment sections of newspapers are read far more than those covering politics and government affairs. If you don’t believe me, look at the mastheads of those publications some time and count how many people are in charge of sports/entertainment content and how many are responsible for covering government.

Even in the world of blogging, the biggest and most popular political blogs are often dominated in traffic by those websites dedicated to sports and celebrity gossip.

We wonder why we are so ineptly governed. Perhaps it’s panem et circenses. We’re too busy entertained to worry about who governs us and how.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • Mick Grosz

    At least the coaches have produced which is more than I can say for most of our elected officials unless producing bigger government is a big plus and deserves to be rewarded. Also I know I could do the Governors job as well as most have but I couldn’t coach a winning sports team.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      What, exactly, do these coaches produce? Entertainment?

      Fair enough, but let’s be clear that it’s entertainment heavily subsidized by the students.and taxpayers.

      • Mick Grosz

        My point is that the politicians and Presidents and Chancellor have produced an ever increasing government burden for the rest of us. Any minimum wage person can do that. If we pay them more we will get the same poor performance but at a higher cost with little chance we will ever get rid of them or replace them with someone who will not do the same as they did. Coaches have to produce wins or they get replaced. Also, we are heavily subsidizing education and government so that education officials can be overpaid and government officials can buy votes. All in all the sports programs and the coaches do less damage to us than the politicians.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          That makes sense to a degree, I guess, but it sure seems like we treat these sports coaches as if they were more important than the public officials who, you know, make the laws.

          • borborygmi

            You totally underestimate the power of parochial pride. You bleed pinstripes, a lot of the state bleeds green and gold or green and white. Unfortunately for you those two team are pretty good. Vicarious pleasure yep.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            So that makes it OK?

            You’re being pretty shallow.

          • borborygmi

            Realist. Accepting quirks of humanity. Bread and circuses are the general populace. You remind me of of Don Quioxte noble, heroic and unrealistic. Because of this unrealistic approach you are set up to perpetually fail…….thus You also remind me of Dante’s Infernal. You have created your own two personal levels of Hell which you have created and seem to lanquish in your Level one Everything higher Ed especially HIgher Ed , the Second the Heidi Heitkamp level. Masochism thy name is Rob Port

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            Realism?

            Ha.

            I guess you think you’re entitled to your own version of reality.

          • borborygmi

            We all are. Can you point out where I am unrealistic and you are realistic. You admit yourself that entertainment takes precedence or politics and political involvement. Considering the number of negative posts you post about Heidi, some basically petty, shows that her election after all the support you put towards Berg still irks the hell out of you thus your personal hell in the infernal. College getting rid of sports, please there are easier windmills to tilt at Mr. Quixote.
            IMO you were born in the wrong century. I could see you in the debates of early 19th century politics. You would have been in heaven.

  • John Lindquist

    I looked at the database that your referenced. It looks like overall athletic programs which would include non-revenue producing sports. Is there a breakdown of each sports program available? I would guess that you’d see the two programs mentioned here marginally in the black, if not partially subsidizing these other sports.

    I get the overall gist, but I’d caution that there are several on the left who think it horrible that there are CEO’s in the private sector who make more than the president. While we as a society are probably too given to bread and circuses, I for one think it’s perfectly OK that someone not exceptionally bright, not exceptionally talented, and given to over-spending as most politicians are, and one who oversees a legislature that meets for a short period every two years, is not the highest-paid employee in the state.

    • Matthew

      In 2009 20 NCAA football programs made money. There is no way UND Hockey or NDSU football are making money.

      • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

        I agree with Matthew. Theres also no way the university is.having to kick in four million a year for track and volleyball.

        • John Lindquist

          Again, I don’t disagree with the gist of your argument, but let’s take a look at the numbers. If you look at NDSU’s football team:

          15,000 seats sold for each game (18.5 less student attendees – part of the athletic fee each student pays)

          $20 per seat, plus additional revenue for luxury box seats sold

          $300,000 per game, at 6 home dates per year = $1.8 million in ticket revenue without the team even reaching the playoffs. Add to that figure $900,000 this year and last.

          This is to say nothing of concessions, the TV and radio revenue, and licensing revenue. At $10 per head (likely a low-ball number), you’re looking at $1.3 million this year in concession revenue alone.

          Add in other intangibles like additional membership and donation to organizations like Teammakers, and youre many dollars above the $4 million ticket and concession revenues.

          Granted, there are considerable expenses, including scholarships, facilities, uniforms and equipment, travel and, yes, coaches.

          We can debate the merits of whether a state wants to pay to have a top-tier athletic team, much less program. If you do want that at your school, there is a price to be paid to recruit the talent and the resources required.

          My point is that I want to keep my government officials–especially elected ones–low-paid. I want them to not get pensions, and to have no desire to stay in office for extended periods of time. I want them to meet infrequently, and guard my freedom, and pass as few laws and spend as little of my money as possible. Then, I want them to return to the private sector where they can continue their previous trade.
          I realize that this is entirely pie in the sky thinking, but if we’re going to survive, the direction has to be taken. We should embrace the idea of low-paid government officials.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            15,000 seats sold for each game (18.5 less student attendees – part of the athletic fee each student pays)

            $20 per seat, plus additional revenue for luxury box seats sold

            $300,000 per game, at 6 home dates per year = $1.8 million in ticket revenue without the team even reaching the playoffs. Add to that figure $900,000 this year and last.

            This is to say nothing of concessions, the TV and radio revenue, and licensing revenue. At $10 per head (likely a low-ball number), you’re looking at $1.3 million this year in concession revenue alone.

            Add in other intangibles like additional membership and donation to organizations like Teammakers, and youre many dollars above the $4 million ticket and concession revenues.

            All of these things are calculated into the NCAA’s numbers, and both NDSU and UND still have to subsidize the sports programs.

            Listen, I know a lot of people love those teams. I get it. I’m a sports fan too (baseball is what I like), but the simple fact is that the programs are a burden to taxpayers and students.

            That’s a pretty grim commentary, especially given what a raw deal students are already getting on tuition and fees.

            As for keeping public official salaries low, I can go both ways. My main point is that our priorities are way out of whack when we treat a hockey/football coach like he’s more important than the governor.

          • borborygmi

            Take a poll on how many students would like to give up their sports teams at UND and NDSU to save the money. You seem to like the challenge of a losing cause why not put a referendum on the next ballot asking for the elimination of High School and College Athletics. I need a good laugh.
            People in the state fought and voted for A collegiate name change or not putting heart soul and money into the fight . WHy. Because they feel the team are important to them for some reason. It is part of the fabric of our culture just as much as gun owner ship is. You can’t seem to deal with it.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            If it saved them $400/year in tuition? If like to think they’d jump at the opportunity, buy one of our problems with higher Ed is that price signals are hidden thanks to government subsidies of tuition.

          • borborygmi

            I will accept you$400 at face value and yes they apparently don’t care nor would a majority care. If the teams weren’t winning teams they might feel different. Like I wrote above your own personal Hell because the Sioux (yes they will always be the Sioux ) and Bison Football (sports in general) are winners. People like to be identified with success. You aren’t able to deal with that.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            You don’t have to take it at face value. The numbers are from the NCAA. It’s math.

            And most in the public, and among students, have no clue. Because “realists” like you attack anyone who starts asking questions.

  • kevindf

    What one person earns has nothing to do with what someone else does or does not earn. The free market should decide.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Neither government,.nor collegiate athletics, is a free market.

      • Grizzler1

        Please name a few truly free markets? I contend that there are few or none that are actually free markets. Collusion from within and govt. interference pretty much negate the free market. Propaganda and hyperbolic retoric aside, all markets are manipulated, including academia and its related industries.
        One more thing. College sports generate more $$ than any other income source for said colleges, other than taxpayer funds and tuition. They alone in the academia world pay for themselves.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          One more thing. College sports generate more $$ than any other income source for said colleges, other than taxpayer funds and tuition. They alone in the academia world pay for themselves.

          No, most college sports programs do not make money. They cost money. According to the NCAA, the sports programs at UND and NDSU cost the unviersity, and thus taxpayers and the students, more than $4 million/year.

          That’s reality.

        • borborygmi

          Free Markets small scale only or completely under the table or black market only or barter.

  • cylde

    Every college football program in major colleges make money ,Forbes just did an article on this subject about 8 that are worth 100 million dollars. Most governors ,if they had to comply with real accounting rules, run annual deficits. Plus the qualifications for a top coaching job are at least 10 times as stiff.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I think your attitude is part of the problem. Coaches are more important than governors? That’s how we get crappy political leadership.

      And I’d sure like to see that Forbes articles about college sports programs being profitable, because that’s just doesn’t seem to be true based on the data in about 95% of instances.

      It most certainly isn’t true of NDSU or UND.

  • Grizzler1

    The extra benefits of high public office more than make up for the seemingly relative low pay they receive. When a Governor is through in office he invariably has a much higher paying gig lined up.

    Holding high office offers many intangible benefits. These intangibles lead directly or indirectly to wealth most of the time, even if the politician leaves office in disgrace.

    College football coaches, while not in the free market, are ruled by market forces within the overall collegiate establishments they operate within.

    Its a market, and they are payed based on that market. Its just not exactly a free market, but then lets be honest. There are no actual free markets.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Well, there are relatively free markets. We don’t live in an anarchy. All markets are regulated to a degree. To say “there are no free markets” is a bit of a cop out.

      The market for collegiate sports coaches is heavily distorted in that it wouldn’t exist, or it wouldn’t exist to the degree it does, without heavy subsidy from taxpayers and students.

      These programs do not – I repeat, do not – pay for themselves no matter how much the fans of the teams may want to believe it.

      • borborygmi

        So, I enjoy the sports and the arts and I will keep subsidizing them. I am guessing the payback to the dome, the restaurants, hotels,bars, and anything else that benefits from successful sports teams considered the pay back is equal to the subsidization.
        You like professional sports playing in subsidized stadiums yet you seem to detest pretty much anything dealing with collegiate sports. How about high school sports? Are you children involved or going to be involved in anything extra curricular. Perhaps they are home schooled so it is a question that doesn’t apply to you and yours.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          I actually don’t like professional teams playing in subsidized stadiums. It irks me that the Yankees got subsidies, and I was outspoken in opposition to the Vikings stadium.

          You shouldn’t jump to so many conclusions.

          • borborygmi

            Yet you still watch them and most likely would go to Yankee stadium if the chance was offered. How about your children. School activities?

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            Well, the Yankees are profitable overall. Collegiate athletics are not.

            And I’m not saying people should stop watching. I’m just pointing out the facts.

            Your tu quoque fallacies are rather childish.

          • borborygmi

            How about your children, in school activities or not? Because those are also heavily subsidized.

          • borborygmi

            How about the revenue created because of the sports teams? The impact is minor?

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            The revue created by the teams is accounted for in the NCAA numbers. Ticket sales. Concessions. Merch. It’s all there.

            You should stop jumping to conclusions and think.

          • borborygmi

            I am alluding to the economy stimulated by a succesful team, bars, restaurants, hotels etc.

  • Grizzler1

    In re-reading the article, I realize you are mostly lamenting the fact that societies priorities are so, how should I put it….shallow would be the word I guess.
    I agree that if money is the meter we use to measure importance/status, we are far from efficient in how we allocate it.
    I consider this the price we pay for living in a moderately free society, and in fact, as I stated before, the the benefits of higher office tend to come after the politian is through with the higher office. They still get thiers, and they know they will get it, so its kind of a moot point.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Oh, I get it. We all get busy with that “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” thing. I love professional baseball. I bleed pinstripes from April to October.

      But our priorities are very, very skewed and not just in the world of sports. What do people know about their taxes? What they got for a refund, not what their tax rate or tax bill was. Who can people name? All the latest pop singers and reality stars, but certainly not the House Majority Leader or the Secretary of the Treasury.

      Our country is in crisis, and America is watching football and shopping.

  • Allen

    Rob, I agree with you on this one about 99% of the way. However, I think it is misleading the way you talk about Hakstol and Bohl’s salaries, then in the same breath repeat that UND/NDSU athletic programs lose money is a little misleading. Yes, the athletic departments of these universities are heavily subsidized by the students as well as the taxpayers, which I personally think is a travesty. However, I am fairly confident that if the only program which existed at UND were hockey, and the only program at NDSU were football, those programs would be self-sufficient. These programs easily generate the ticket revenues, advertising and sponsorships to break even or better. The athletic programs that waste money year after year are those like volleyball, wrestling, softball, track, and so on, that incur substantial costs but generate virtually no revenue. Personally, I think athletics at so-called institutions of higher learning are stupid to begin with, and they could be done away with altogether for all I care. However, in the case of UND hockey and NDSU football, I think you would find if you obtained and looked at the financial results for those particular sports, that they are not the drain on students and taxpayers’ wallets that you make them out to be.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      The problem is the universities are something less than forthcoming with the data, but I’m positive what we’d find is that they lose money.

      There are only a handful of collegiate teams in America that make money, and neither the Sioux or the Bison are among them.

  • jimmypop

    “Many people assume that the hockey and football programs bring in revenues for the universities, but it’s not true.”

    so they get $5M from taxes….but how much to they generate in income for the university and north dakota? each sold out NDSU football game is probably worth $1,000,000 (its actually more i think). weve had 10 of them this year. lets not even talk about local sale tax dollars…. tomorrow, as an example, every bar in town will be PACKED. what is that worth?

    whats a seat at unds stadium sell for and how many games do they have a year?

    i get how a swimming or track program is a total loss. as are 99% of girls sports….. picking on football and hockey, not the place to fight a ‘they dont make money’ battle because ticket sales ALONE dwarf those dollars invested.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      The NCAA database has the revenues from everything, and no they’re not profitable. They rely on subsidies from the university, which in turn comes from the taxpayers and students.

      You’re believing a fairy tale.

      • jimmypop

        the data base you linked to shows ndsu breaks even….. meaning, it clearly makes the area money.

  • The Fighting Czech

    While i think all sports are a waste of taxpayers money, You have to admit, when a coach has a losing team he loses his job and things can get pretty tough getting a new coaching job……. Politicians and CEO’s on the other hand, are well rewarded, one way or the other, no matter how badly they screw things up….

  • exsanguine

    Coaching is a career
    Governing, ie: public service is not. ( or shouldn’t be)

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I think it speaks to our priorities, and nothing all that positive.

      Remember, these coaches are not in the private sector’

  • ndoldman

    Nothing new 10yrs ago USA Today did an artical about the same thing only nation wide and in only one state in the union was this not the case they gave the top 3 higest paid state levels and they were coach , collage pres and gov and that didn’t included perks given to the coaches from nike and others at the time. If I remember the artical right it was trying to justify pay for the players and less to the admin.

  • Hal736

    It’s called the free market.

  • fredlave

    I heard a similar argument years ago comparing the salaries of the ND’s governor and the physician in charge of the State Hospital whose salary was much higher than the Governor. It’s a meaningless comparison since it deals with dollars and not relative value to the community. Also, it used to be that garbagemen were paid more than teachers but the Teachers’ Union fixed that comparison but, again, you can debate the VALUE of each group to society. Having lived through the Great NYC Garbage Strike of 1968 I’d vote for the garbagemen.

  • http://ndgoon.blogspot.com Goon

    Here is some numbers for you to chew on http://www.gopherpucklive.com/index.php?page=blogfull&id=11205 AND these are based on 2010 numbers. UND made 3+ million in ticket sales this year.

    Here is the top 10 based on 2010 revenues:

    1. Minnesota Golden Gophers (WCHA) — $ 6,681,561
    2. Wisconsin Badgers (WCHA) — $5,297,711
    3. Michigan Wolverines (CCHA) — $4,102,771
    4. North Dakota Fighting Sioux (WCHA) — $3,915,971
    5. Boston College Eagles (Hockey East) — $3,702,040
    6. Colorado College Tigers (WCHA) — $3,059,597
    7. Boston University Terriers (Hockey East) — $2,973,001
    8. Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (WCHA) — $2,795,864
    9. New Hampshire Wildcats (Hockey East) — $2,553,028
    10. Maine Black Bears (Hockey East) — $2,508,238

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