Can surging athletics salaries at UGA be justified?

Damon Evans' pay raises difficult questions for some in the UGA community. (Curtis Compton / AJC}

Damon Evans' pay raises difficult questions for some in the UGA community. (Curtis Compton / AJC}

It’s interesting the way folks react to the ever-escalating salaries in college athletics. UGA signs a new defensive coordinator for a whopping $750,000 and hardly anyone blinks. In fact, for some fans of the Dogs it became a sort of point of pride that the deal made Todd Grantham the third-highest paid assistant in the nation. Plus everyone knows UGA’s athletic association is one of the most profitable in the country, so they could afford to pay top dollar.

But Damon Evans, UGA’s athletics director, gets a $90,000 raise in his new five-year contract last week, going from his current $460,000 to $550,000 (with $20,000 annual hikes and a $250,000 longevity bonus built in) and UGA President Michael Adams, who also chairs the athletics board, feels it necessary to defend the move at his monthly news briefing.

Coaches are one thing, I guess, while administrators are viewed differently. And professors are something else again, unfortunately.

Part of the problem with all this spending on the athletics side is that professors and other university workers aren’t getting any raises. Adams acknowledged that renewing Evans’ contract “didn’t fall at the most opportune time.” But he still maintained “it was the right thing to do.”
Adams noted that “the average salary for an AD in the Southeastern Conference is now $532,000 a year, so we’re simply going to be pretty much in line with the rest of our competitors.”

A good point. But some critics just can’t get past the disparity, even though the money going to Evans and other athletic association employees doesn’t come out of the same pot that pays the university’s professors and other workers.

Letter writer Brenda A. Poss conceded in Sunday’s Athens Banner-Herald that Evans’ pay from the UGA athletic association comes from a “different funding source,” but was still “astounded that anyone at UGA needs to receive a raise of $90,000 for a yearly salary of $550,000. Do the math, and you’ll discover that comes out to $1506.85 per day and $45,833 per month. One day of that salary would buy health insurance for someone who can’t afford it. One month of that salary would fund two or three support positions at UGA. In short, it is an excessive amount of money to be paid to anyone for any job under our current conditions.”

Poss asked: “Where are the good will and conscience of the University of Georgia, its athletic association and its athletic boosters? In the midst of a financial crisis, how can this be justified? And if such funds exist, how can our state’s flagship institution justify continuing to cut faculty positions, reducing operating budgets and raising tuition? It is time for a fairer division of the available funds, regardless of their source. It is time to do the right thing.”

In other words, if UGA athletics generates millions, shouldn’t it be the university and its students who benefit, not the coaches and athletics administrators?

Adams noted that the “divergence of athletic salaries relative to academic salaries is the real issue” and said, “I’m concerned long-term about the impact on the academic environment as the disparity between substantial raises in athletics versus no raises in academics becomes more and more pronounced.”

The way things are going in college athletics salaries “is a pace that I don’t think can be retained,” he said. “I don’t think it should be. But we are in a market and we are in a league where we feel the need to be competitive.”

He pointed out that last year the athletic association’s board voted to give $2 million a year to an academic fund that the UGA president controls. And there’s a possibility that athletics could contribute more to academics, he said.

“I don’t think we want to get to the point where we have a wealthy athletic program and a poor university, so long-term I think we’re going to have to take a look at the whole relationship between academic spending and athletic spending,” he said. “This is a nationwide challenge at the Division I-A level. I wish the general public was as excited about a physics professor as they are about a football coordinator, but we don’t seem to be in that market right now.”

Let’s face  it, chances are we never will be. Movie stars make lots more money than researchers battling disease. And while the work faculty members do undoubtedly is more important to the core mission of the state’s flagship university, what happens on the field of Sanford Stadium not only brings in a ton of money to the athletic association, it generates a level of awareness and good will and a sense of identity for UGA in terms of the general public that signing a top physics researcher never could do.

Is there something basically wrong with that picture, or is that just the way it works?

344 comments Add your comment

GeoffDawg

February 9th, 2010
11:04 am

In short, yes, it can be justified. Were it not for the ultra competitive and popular nature of college athletics, these salaries wouldn’t be possible and in turn, extra funding given to the academic portion of the school would be non-existent. You want to kill the golden goose, pass a tax making the athletic department less competitive to its relevant market. UGA econ 101 would be a good reference for some of these blinded by outrage columnists.

Bryan G.

February 9th, 2010
11:14 am

Well, the market dictates people’s salaries. Right now, there is a greater market for someone who wins football games than someone who teaches Philosophy. That’s capitalism and that’s why the UGAA is seperate from the University.

KJ

February 9th, 2010
11:15 am

Supply, demand, end of argument.

As for “raising tuition”, you can thank the influx of gov’t dollars to student loan programs, which artificially inflates tuition costs (similar to the housing debacle).

H DAWG

February 9th, 2010
11:15 am

3rd Darn it !!

Herschel Talker

February 9th, 2010
11:19 am

No it cannot be justified.

1. We are in a depression. This sends the wrong message.

2. They are allowing Mark Richt to continue to train wreck the football program.

Nick

February 9th, 2010
11:19 am

It’s called Capitalism.

Paul

February 9th, 2010
11:20 am

If you want everything to be fair at the university work to make it that way. My suggestion is to get more people fired up about the physics dept and get some donations. if you take money donated for athletics and pay cafiteria workers health insurance; people will be upset that the money they donated was not used for the purpose that they intended.

Smokewagon

February 9th, 2010
11:20 am

Dawgs are going to bash the Gators 80’s style this year. Their fans don’t even realize there was football in the 80’s.

jdawg

February 9th, 2010
11:22 am

Another thing that athletics do for the professors, that live in Clark and surrounding counties, is reduce there tax on property, and provide for some tax relief. Ok, an Ag professor was commenting last year and complaining at the poultry convention about the games in the fall. And, I just told him, to check his taxes without those 6 games. Even the community fights to hold on to the 6 games, knowing the revenue. Why don’t you ask Bruce Lucia of Kroger, how they do? It is just the way it is….if we cancel athletics, then no donation to academics, and tax rater even higher. Yes, my wife is a teacher and no pay raise. Guess if they cancel football, NASCAR might be fun to. They spend a couple of dollars…

JacketFan

February 9th, 2010
11:23 am

GeoffDawg – you obviously aren’t reading carefully. Money generated by sports at the University goes, for the most part (less the 2 million cited in the article), to the Athletics Association, not the University. The sports are supporting themselves, not generating revenue for the University, its employees and facilities. Get your facts straight before you sound off on something you no nothing about.

Signed,

A University System of Georgia Faculty Member

YES

February 9th, 2010
11:23 am

Evans salary increase can be justified. We are a top 15 revenue attaining athletic program. We are in the top 5 in football revenues alone.

I would caution that during this difficult times, everyone is sensitive to raises to those that the general population deem financially secure. The general population often thinks “why should Evans get another $90K when he already makes over $440K?”

If he continues to grow revenue at our athletic program and continues to strengthen the UGA brand so that merchandising, ticketing, and TV revenues go up, then he deserves it.

Jona

February 9th, 2010
11:26 am

A University System of Georgia Faculty Member=JacketFan ?

That’s grounds for dismissal

Brucemac

February 9th, 2010
11:26 am

It has nothing to do with CMR, if it weren’t him it would be somebody else. It is called competition. The UGA head coach will always make approximately what Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida’s head coach makes. The Profs at UGA will make approximately what the Profs at other SEC institutions make. UGA doesn’t establish the pay markets, competiton does. Anybody that thinks other wise is just ignorant of the facts

Gratefuldawghead

February 9th, 2010
11:27 am

What “YES” said!

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

February 9th, 2010
11:27 am

They make big money and they paint a little dog’s a$$. Something is very wrong.

Nick

February 9th, 2010
11:28 am

Hey Jacket Fan, learn how to spell before you criticize. KNOW is not NO. I sure hope you aren’t a english professor at UGA.

Pago Flyer

February 9th, 2010
11:28 am

It’s a free country, so far!

UGAX

February 9th, 2010
11:29 am

JACKETFAN-

Great point and subtle reminder of what we (not only UGA, GT, or even Georgia Southern) have become. I’m the biggest college football fan in the world but to attempt to justify what is more important is moronic and shallow. If we expect to keep the best and the brightest in the fields of education and research, then we need to ante up and make sure we keep them on board (which is what we are doing in football).

Bremen Dawg

February 9th, 2010
11:31 am

I’m not upset with the AD getting a raise. He forced Mark Richt to make a change so that deserves a big raise. I think Damon will do everything he can to make sure all UGA sports are successfull.

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

February 9th, 2010
11:31 am

The Bulldog Nation? The Bulldog Brand? How about the Bulldog with a painted a$$? What is wrong with you people? I am going on Oprah and I am going to reveal everything I know and it won’t be pretty. Paying these big salaries while I walk around with a spray painted a$$ is wrong. Temps get no benefits and I don’t have health insurance much less enough for a good cosmetic repair.

skydawg

February 9th, 2010
11:32 am

You’re joking right? The only people upset are the professors. And when the professors can generate the revenue that the athletic department generates for the university, then we’ll talk. UGA athletics department is annually in the top 5, usually top 3 in annual revenue. Sounds like a bit of petty jealousy to me.

Decory Bryant's Attorney

February 9th, 2010
11:33 am

“Your Honor, Ladies & Gentlemen on the jury……I give you Exhibit A.”

MoDawg

February 9th, 2010
11:35 am

As long as the revenue generated by the Athletics Dept. at UGA can cover the salaries, who cares? UGA makes a ton of money, so why not pay the people responsible for that success?

The football program basically finances the whole thing, so those coaches should be the highest paid as a percent of the revenue generated. Damon Evans is steering the whole ship, so he should be compensated for that, as well.

Makes sense to me.

Brucemac

February 9th, 2010
11:35 am

So, who said we weren’t paying the best for Profs? Maybe we are maybe we aren’t, but it has nothing to do with the Athletic pay. So you people think if we cut pay in Athletic pay scale and lose our competitive edge that will be a good thing for the Profs? You think it will be a good thing for the school? This is illogical unless you are a Prof. The fees and tax revenue supports the academics and you pay out what you take in. The Athletics revenue comes from ticket sales, TV revenue, and licensed product sales. How do you think that revenue will be if we go cheap. So $2 Million does not matter?

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

February 9th, 2010
11:36 am

They produce big revenue selling pork skins at the concessions, too. Football schools are football schools and Georgia used to be a big player until they painted a little dog’s a$$ in Shreveport. Tennessee seems to be the up and coming program in the SEC now with Da’Rick and Coach Dooley. Georgia still has gymnastics and agriculture to fall back on.

Face Facts

February 9th, 2010
11:37 am

I wouldnt count on any discounts on
season tickets with all that windfall profit.

Peadawg

February 9th, 2010
11:37 am

With the furlough days, the lack of raises for other University employees, and new student fees…HELL NO IT CAN’T BE JUSTIFIED.

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

February 9th, 2010
11:37 am

Yes, I’m bitter. You would be, too, with a painted a$$.

Peadawg

February 9th, 2010
11:40 am

The people on here that aren’t upset probably don’t work for UGA. I want to see ONE UGA employee that isn’t upset and why.

Kirby Smart

February 9th, 2010
11:40 am

BHAHHAHAHHAHAHHHAHHAHA!

jarvis

February 9th, 2010
11:40 am

Let me hear an Economics professor’s opinion rather than a Physics professor.
I have the feeling it would be different and correct.

Smokey

February 9th, 2010
11:40 am

Russ, yea a coach from La Tech and a kid that can’t qualify are definately changing the land scape of SEC football. My Vols are not a factor in SEC football and have not been for 10 years. You are an idiot even if you are just another dog.

James

February 9th, 2010
11:40 am

Since they generate all of their own revenue (through sales + donations), the athletic dpt. can pay anyone whatever they want. The question is whether it is really appropriate to do so in bad economic times. Also, we have to remember that this is COLLEGE football, so you can’t completely remove the academic institution from the equation. It would reflect well on the AD to move more funds to the University for educational purposes, even though he is not obligated to do so.

DecaturDawg

February 9th, 2010
11:42 am

I’m not an Evans hater, but i’m not sure that he’s earned that raise either. The Grantham hiring may turn out to be a good one, and I hope it does. But the process was the biggest debacle we’ve seen since Jim Donnan. And the fact of the matter is that it’s Damon Evans’ job to prevent such things from occurring.

Seems to me that at some point over the course of 2009, Evans would have pointed out to Richt that Willie wasn’t cutting it, and to make up a short list of candidates. Evans, in his capacity as AD, would vett Richt’s short list so that when the time came the firing and hiring could happen in about a 48 hour period.

That’s a best case scenario, but the way it played out, you’d think that a couple of guys who make an insane amount of money had no idea what was going on, and did nothing at all to prepare for the inevitable.

In my book, that’s bad management that shouldn’t be rewarded.

Bill, how about a list of things that Evans has done right to deserve that raise? Keeping up with the Jones’s shouldn’t be an excuse.

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

February 9th, 2010
11:43 am

I heard they are going to take down the arch to help pay for the new DC. Somebody told me they might close some of the library, too. Da’Rick was going to spend a lot of time in that library and that may be why he ended up at Tennessee. As for me, I am sitting here in thinner getting madder and madder.

Go Dawgs

February 9th, 2010
11:45 am

University System of Georgia doesn’t mean JacketFan is a UGA employee. It means they are an employee of the University System of Georgia, just like they said. That can be any school from UGA to Savannah State and all public schools in between. I wouldn’t expect anybody on here to know that though.

Bruce Mac

February 9th, 2010
11:45 am

Peadawg, how is it going to change your pay if Evans makes less? I assume you think that all money should be shared just like in China? Evans chose his field knowing what the opportunities are and you chose your field. Did you really think you were going to make $550,000 per year when you got in it? The reason you are not happy with your pay is because you are in a field that is not appreciated or rewarded to the extent you think it should be. Don’t hate the people that made better life choices than you at least in regard to pay.

Peadawg

February 9th, 2010
11:47 am

Bruce Mac, I know I’m not getting 500K/yr. But when we’re getting furloughed 6 days a year, charging students a random “fee”, cutting back, etc….we don’t need to be giving out raises to ANYBODY.

WE RUiN THIS STATE

February 9th, 2010
11:48 am

Simply put….NO.

123456789

February 9th, 2010
11:49 am

Bryan G

Havent you heard ??

Clarke County Superior Court Judge Lawton Stephens dismissed the Decory Bryant lawsuit against the UGA-AA because the judge ruled that the UGA-AA was…”an arm of the state” and protected by the State’s “sovereign immunity.”

So, how can that be? How can the UGA-AA by an entity of the State of Georgia…
when you just stated that the UGA-AA is SEPARATE from the university.

Appeals Court will soon rule, that the UGA-AA is…IN FACT…a private, revenue-generating,
non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation.

And when that happens, the UGA-AA will stroke a check to Decory Bryant for $5,000,000+

Any word on what the Apostle Mark has done to help Decory Bryant ??

78 DAWG

February 9th, 2010
11:51 am

The salaries are fine, even while teachers and classroom spending (along with other sports) are being cut back. Football is what we are about, it’s our identity, it’s who we are. What kind of priorities do you have to even ask this question?!?! Do you know how much productivity is lost, because of lost motivation, due to low self-esteem at Walmart, when the DAWGS lose? In the state of Georgia alone, not counting our fans across the country, Walmart lost 5 trillion dollars during this last 8-5 debacle!

GeoffDawg

February 9th, 2010
11:51 am

Lol JacketFan, sorry I don’t “no” anything about it in your opinion. I take it you’re not in the business school, eh?

Obviously, the sports are supporting themselves. That’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

Why don’t you go back and read what I posted more carefully and quit being such a tool.

Signed,
GeoffDawg

Floyd

February 9th, 2010
11:52 am

It would be a lot easier to justify if the UGA Athletic Association offered to pick up the tab for post-game clean-up, which is now the sole responsiblity of the University.

The Other St. Simons

February 9th, 2010
11:53 am

“Well, the world needs ditch diggers too.” – Judge Smails

Bruce Mac

February 9th, 2010
11:54 am

Well, if we don’t give him a raise, how do we expect to keep him? Why would he stay here if he can make more elsewhere? After all, his area of responsibility is booming and extremely profitable, others are noticing. I assume if you could make more going elsewhere you would. I hear what you are saying but it doesn’t and can’t work that way.

Radly Dawg

February 9th, 2010
11:56 am

Good point Bryan G…..but it still sucks. Like Bob Dylan said…”everything is broken”! And when those tickets to that Georgia game are $100.00 face value…….remember , it’s only cpaitalism!!!!!!

Radly Dawg
Metter

The Perfect Quote

February 9th, 2010
11:57 am

For anyone who EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER doubted…….

I give you, 78 DAWG, a STEREOTYPICAL UGA Fan, in his very own words:

“Football is what we are about, it’s our identity, it’s who we are.
What kind of priorities do you have to even ask this question?!?! “

UGAG

February 9th, 2010
12:00 pm

Agreed.

Put that quote on Vince’s statue. LOL

CommonSenseRules

February 9th, 2010
12:03 pm

Bill King’s question is: “Is there something basically wrong with that picture, or is that just the way it works?”
First, it is not an either/or question. The answer is yes and yes. Our entire society has its priorities out of whack. Celebrity — whether college athletics or movie stars — defines our standards of ‘the good.’ Those with the power to change that distortion, as Pogo pointed out decades ago, “is us.” The only catch is that we don’t want to change.

mike

February 9th, 2010
12:03 pm

Brenda Poss is a complete moron. Why waste space with anything she has to say.