Imagine Michigan placing the compiled $100,000 worth of bonuses for coach John Beilein in the NCAA tournament toward operating costs instead.
That is how much Beilein has made for the Wolverines advancing to the Sweet 16.
The figure is almost one-third of the salary Kent State coach Rob Senderhoff makes annually with his $350,000 paid over the next three years. It is almost as much as Northern Kentucky coach John Brannen makes a year at $125,000. He also managed to coach his team to the NCAA tournament.
Senderhoff made $30,000 in bonuses for his team earning the automatic bid by winning the MAC tournament title ($20,000) and by playing in the Round of 64 ($10,000). Brannen? No bonus for reaching the round of 64 before losing big to Kentucky.
This is another example of the division that separates the power conferences from the mid-majors and lower-rung programs. The salary structures are already extremely different with Beilein making $3.37 million annually compared to what Senderhoff and Brannen take home.
The reason for the drastic difference between salaries and bonuses between, for example, Senderhoff and Beilein, goes beyond the magnitude of each program and their conferences. Some schools such as Kent State and others obviously do not operate with the same budget as institutions from the major conferences, like the Big Ten.
According to the NCAA, only about 50 percent of the 128 basketball programs in the top subdivision of Division I generate enough revenue (including money from donors) to cover their operating costs. Facility costs, such as arenas, training complexes, and tutoring centers are not included in this data. When these costs are included, only a handful of programs – the elite of the elite such as Kentucky and Kansas – generate a surplus.
High-priced salaries and bonuses of coaches and administrators ironically play a part in operating costs not being met. They get paid while the school takes a backseat. Athletic directors, just like head coaches, are evaluated and compensated depending on how often their teams win and advance through the tournament.
Every worker loves a bonus, but in the case of already wealthy coaches and administrators, wouldn’t it be wise for the school and these coaches and athletic directors to have that extra money go to the infrastructure of the program instead of their wallets?
UCLA coach Steve Alford is one coach who is not making much off bonuses in the NCAA tournament. He received $25,000 for earning an at-large bid and $25,000 more for reaching the Round of 32. He didn’t make anything for reaching the Sweet 16. The Bruins must defeat Kentucky in that round for him to draw another $25,000.
Shouldn’t Alford want that relatively minuscule amount of $50,000 in bonuses to this point go instead to facilities development or supplement the athletic department budget for other enhancements? Wouldn’t he get as much out of that instead of lining an already fat wallet with him making almost $3 million annually?
Sure, the lucrative incentive to reach goals is attractive to lure a head coach and make him want to stay.
But it may benefit the coach to put a little more of that money toward making his program, and athletic department as a whole, more substantial from the inside out.
Javier Morales has worked as a sports journalist for more than 25 years. He reported for The Arizona Daily Star for 13 years. He was the Star’s beat reporter for the Arizona men’s basketball program when the Wildcats won the national title in 1996-97. A 2010 Arizona Press Club award winner, Morales operates the blog site AllSportsTucson.com.