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    A blog by John Warner, author of The Funny Man, on teaching, writing and never knowing when you're going to be asked to leave.

Why We Should Talk About the Football Coach's Salary When Faculty are Let Go
January 23, 2013 - 7:00pm

Bowling Green State University recently announced that it would be cutting 100 faculty positions for next fall, more than 10% of the total number of full-time faculty.

I found out this news via Facebook, which really does seem to be the source (along with Twitter) of the majority of news and information that crosses my mental desk on any given day. A debate/discussion cropped up underneath the posting, and as happens someone invoked the salaries of football coaches, and how it seems unfair that 100 teachers will lose their jobs when coaches are making so much.

There was a debate/discussion about this, and it was generally agreed that maybe it was too simplistic or counterproductive to lament these imbalances as they are a fact of the way universities operate. Academics and athletics are separate, football programs bring in money that they get to use for themselves, and in the end, these realities are just a reflection of society’s values.

I agree that the situation at BGSU is a reflection of society’s values, which is why I think we need to bring up football and athletic departments every time faculty are cut, or furloughed, or denied raises for years on end, or we’re told that the treatment of adjunct faculty is “unlikely to change.”

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  • The head football coach at BGSU, Dave Clawson, makes $363,000 a year. This actually puts him well down in the bottom quartile of Division I football coaches in terms of base pay.
  • The 2012 team had a successful year, improving from 5-7 to 8-5 and earning an invite to the Military Bowl held at RFK Stadium (capacity 56,454) in Washington, D.C., where the team lost to San Jose St. before a paid attendance of 17,835.
  • The season high attendance mark for home games at Doyt Perry Stadium was 17,071 against Miami (OH). Low was 13,158 against Eastern Michigan. Stadium capacity is 23,724.
  • Undergraduate enrollment at BGSU was 14,807.
  • In order to keep from losing money on their trip to the Military Bowl, the MAC conference provided BGSU with a $400,000 stipend.  (The MAC conference handed out more than $5 million in total to its bowl-bound teams in order to help defray expenses, including $4 million to Northern Illinois University for the Orange Bowl.)
  • According to this link (which has information I cannot independently verify), the athletic budget for 2011 was $16 million, a 9.2% increase over the previous year. $9 million of that budget came from student fees.
  • The reduction in faculty is expected to save $5.2 million.
  • BGSU provost Rodney Rogers says he “doesn’t expect” educational quality to be compromised: “Our priority is ensuring the success of our students, and we are constantly evaluating staffing to meet their needs and operate as efficiently as possible. This will not impact the quality of a BGSU education or a student’s ability to graduate on time.”

If these are our values, so be it, but I don’t think we’re talking about them enough, or that we’re armed with enough information when we do so. The assumptions we bring to the conversation: football pays for itself, athletics brings in money, a winning football team benefits the university as a whole, athletics and academics are separate.. are, at best, insufficiently understood, and at worst untrue.

I’d be curious to see how Bowling Green students would vote if they were given a choice to funnel their student fees to the faculty, rather than the athletic department.

I honestly don’t know how it would go, but at least then their values would be truly reflected.

 

 

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