Beyond pure greed and something akin to blood-lust, it's never been clear to me how college sports became the monstrous machine they are today. Even 35 years ago at the US Naval Academy, when we had to march onto football fields for the annual orgy of the Army-Navy game, I felt a deep sense of misplaced priorities, heavily laden by the stench of too much testosterone.
That ugly tradition continues today at UNC, where in a stunning display of poor judgment, Dick Baddour has just granted a losing head football coach a raise of nearly $300,000 per year. The N&O properly takes issue with the decision.
The hike will bring the coach's compensation, including a shoe deal and bonus potentials, to over $2 million annually. That's still a little less than men's basketball coach Roy Williams.
Athletics officials and those boosters who seem to define the school by its football and basketball prowess long ago ceased to care about how outsized coaches' salaries are compared to those of professors -- or even to chancellors and university presidents. (Davis and Williams earn more in one year than the once-in-a-lifetime reward for winners of the Nobel Prize.)
They seem oblivious as well even to thinking about whether it is a healthy thing for a public university with a stellar academic reputation to send a maddening message about its priorities, one that seems to set the athletics program apart from all else. That message, by the way, is the same whether the money to fund athletics comes from the taxpayer or from private donations.
Where is Chancellor James Moeser in all this? Sadly, under his tenure, the athletics program has grown more burly and independent. For that matter, UNC system President Erskine Bowles ought to be sounding some alarms here.
James Moeser is a nice enough guy, but he seems way out of his league when it comes to exercising the kind of leadership necessary to rein in runaway sports. Plus he's a lame duck. And Bowles? The jury's still out. For all his talk about the right priorities in education, he seems awfully content to let the Big Boys Club (the board of governors) call the shots about what's important in the people's university.
Thanks to the N&O for this strong, clear editorial.