Month: September 2013

NCAA football coach salaries in context

A year or so ago, I posted about how hard it is for me to enjoy football these days. Part of my argument was Urban Meyer’s $4 million a year salary from The Ohio State University. It’s obscene for an institution of higher ed to make its football coach the highest paid state employee. Urban Meyer isn’t the only case of a very highly paid football coach, of course. The Deadspin infographic linked to above, constant news about rising college costs and student debt, as well as news about stagnant middle and working class wages made me wonder how college football coach salaries compare to typical salaries and costs of middle and working class life.

So, here’s what I did. I found the salaries of the top 10 highest paid college football coaches, and used to get tuition and financial aid data for the top 10 schools (I had to use for the University of Louisville). Then I used Current Population Survey data from the Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder to find median household income estimates for the cities the universities are located in, and I found the Economic Policy Institute’s Basic Family Budget estimate for each location (I had to use Oklahoma City for the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State).

With these data I estimated 4 ratios. I calculated the ratio of ‘coach’s salary to tuition’ (in state for the 9 public schools on the list), the ratio of ‘coach’s salary to average financial aid award,’ ‘coach’s salary to median household income,’ and ‘coach’s salary to basic family budget.

As you can see, these coaches are well paid by any of these measures. It turns out that Urban Meyer (who really turned me off of football when he got his contract) isn’t the worst offender. I mean, you’d think Mack Brown might win something given his wonderful rewards. That’s the way it works, right? These 10 highest paid coaches make anywhere from 69 times (TCU’s Gary Patterson) to 164 times (Alabama’s Nick Saban) median household income in their communities, and from 95 to 597 times their institution’s tuition and fees (Patterson and Saban again). Obviously I could look into this for more than the top 10, but the top 25 highest paid coaches all make at least $2.5 million a year so I wouldn’t expect it to be much different. Some of these top 25, for example, are in small, relatively downtrodden Midwest towns with relatively low costs of living and low pay. Their ratios might be more extreme.

Here is the table of raw data:

Coach School Location Salary Tuition & Fees Avg Fin Aid Median HH Income EPI BFB
Nick Saban University of Alabama* Tuscaloosa, AL $5,650,000.00 $9,450.00 $11,479.00 $34,359.00 $61,004.00
Mack Brown University of Texas* Austin, TX $5,400,000.00 $9,790.00 $13,669.00 $52,453.00 $66,970.00
Bob Stoops University of Oklahoma* Norman,OK $4,600,000.00 $8,915.00 $11,837.00 $46,595.00 $58,852.00
Urban Meyer Ohio State* Columbus, OH $4,300,000.00 $10,037.00 $12,201.00 $43,348.00 $62,104.00
Les Miles LSU* Baton Rouge, LA $4,300,000.00 $7,880.00 $12,600.00 $37,381.00 $57,160.00
Kirk Ferentz University of Iowa* Iowa City, IA $3,900,000.00 $8,061.00 $12,603.00 $41,956.00 $66,677.00
Charlie Strong University of Louisville* Louisville, KY $3,700,000.00 $9,750.00 $11,720.00 $43,680.00 $61,630.00
Steve Spurrier University of South Carolina* Columbia, SC $3,600,000.00 $10,816.00 $12,340.00 $38,995.00 $59,431.00
Gary Patterson TCU Fort Worth, TX $3,500,000.00 $36,590.00 $21,669.00 $50,456.00 $64,587.00
Mike Gundy Oklahoma State* Stillwater, OK $3,300,000.00 $7,442.00 $12,558.00 $30,133.00 $58,852.00

Here is the table of ratios I calculated:

Coach School Location Salary/Tuition Salary/Fin Aid Salary/Med Inc Salary/BFB
Nick Saban University of Alabama* Tuscaloosa, AL 597.88 492.20 164.44 92.62
Mack Brown University of Texas* Austin, TX 551.58 395.05 102.95 80.63
Bob Stoops University of Oklahoma* Norman,OK 515.98 388.61 98.72 78.16
Urban Meyer Ohio State* Columbus, OH 428.41 352.43 99.20 69.24
Les Miles LSU* Baton Rouge, LA 545.69 341.27 115.03 75.23
Kirk Ferentz University of Iowa* Iowa City, IA 483.81 309.45 92.95 58.49
Charlie Strong University of Louisville* Louisville, KY 379.49 315.70 84.71 60.04
Steve Spurrier University of South Carolina* Columbia, SC 332.84 291.73 92.32 60.57
Gary Patterson TCU Fort Worth, TX 95.65 161.52 69.37 54.19
Mike Gundy Oklahoma State* Stillwater, OK 443.43 262.78 109.51 56.07

Any civil comments, concerns, or criticisms?


Bad, politically motivated sociology is being used for bad political purposes? Regnerus is appalled!

The Regnerus Affair will not go away. At least not until the piece of bad sociology that started it is retracted. It certainly appears that the odds of retraction are slim because there are powerful sociologists defending our institutions and practices in the abstract. This is so even when it looks clear that this is more than bad sociology, but in fact a result of a certainly failed, and arguably corrupt research and peer review process. This is particularly shameful because the research is regularly being used by those who wish to deny equal rights to gays and lesbians across the globe.

Regnerus keeps talking about it too, which looks to be good for his career. His latest comment on the affair showed up here on the Atlantic Wire. Regnerus is apparently upset that his piece of bad sociology, which sloppily contends that children of same sex parents face negative outcomes, is being used by Russian politicians to argue that ‘science shows negative outcomes for children raised by same sex parents.’ It’s shocking, isn’t it? Who would have thought politically charged research could affect politics? Why bother to do that sociology well, or put it through the same rigorous peer review process as the reams of politically inconsequential sociology that is rejected every day? No reason according to SSR, I guess. Using my sociological imagination, it occurs to me that maybe Regnerus’ (bad) paper is actually the cause of more instability for same-sex headed families, and therefore harmful the parents and children in those families? Dr. Tey Meadow said this better than I ever will, right here.

Like other examples of Regnerus’ writing that I’ve responded to here at the Morass, there are a few sentences that jump off the page. I’ll quote them:

This may come as a surprise to those who have spent the past 15 months tagging my study as discredited or “debunked,” a silly and simplistic moniker given that the data is public and the analyses in the article are rather straightforward.

Regnerus is right that a lot of sociologists and activists have spent a fair amount of time critiquing his methods, his findings, and the peer review process for his original paper. He’s smugly wrong to call that ‘moniker’ silly or simplistic. There are good reasons for scientists and activists to discredit the research.

That’s bad, but, here’s what really got me. When he defends the legitimacy of his study by saying the data are public and his analysis is straightforward. I don’t recall the public availability of the data ever being central to any criticism of the study, and his measurement of same-sex parents was anything but straightforward. His measure wouldn’t pass the ‘face validity’ test I just taught in my undergrad methods course last week. That his paper sailed through peer review at what I would have considered a respectable journal makes this marginal sociologist want to shut down Stata and call it a career.

Regnerus’ ability to flatly ignore the very sound criticism of his study, and the process that gave it to Russian politicians and the U.S. Supreme court on a silver platter, is either the blindness of privilege, or simple disregard for those who dare question his work and position. It’s hard for me to see it any other way.

And then that paragraph got more maddening:

Isn’t it hypocritical to blow the whistle on this use of the data while supporting other such uses, such as my own participation on an amici brief to the U.S. Supreme Court? No, it is not, because I oppose same-sex marriage and lawmaker Andrei Zhuravlyov’s draconian legislation for the same reason: every child has a mother and a father, and such kinship matters for kids. To be stably rooted in your married mother and father’s household is to foster the greatest chance at lifelong flourishing. It’s not necessary, of course. It just has the best odds.

Here, in passing, he blithely presents one of the least sophisticated arguments against same-sex marriage there is. He writes “I oppose same-sex marriage and lawmaker Andrei Zhuravlyov’s draconian legislation for the same reason: every child has a mother and a father, and such kinship matters for kids.”

Marriage is not about kids. Marriage is about adults who want to marry one another. Marriage is about mutual care and enjoying each other’s company. Marriage is about federal rights. Yes, I do take this personally. I’m married, without kids. We’re not going to have kids. My marriage is not suffering for it. No one else’s marriages or kids are suffering for it, either. I’m not making my community less stable. And, most important, I’m not doing lousy research to protect my privileges or to promote my moral preferences as science.

I guess I’ll end with a poorly stated hypothesis: A society with equal marriage for all will be more stable, and good for kids. I think that’s true and will make for a good society. And I don’t even like kids.

The Pledge of Allegiance and Interaction Ritual

Per Smith wrote a short response to a Salon article about a court case in Massachusetts challenging the inclusion of ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance. Per is right to note that ritual is about action and the solidarity it potentially creates. I believe the arguments about ritual and solidarity, and in this case I believe the Pledge of Allegiance can effectively foster an imagined national community (if it did or does is another question). I believe it probably fails for a lot of people who don’t feel particularly included or excluded, that it actively excludes a good number of others, and that the 1950’s addition of ‘under God‘ made the ‘indivisible’ that follows a happy irony for anyone teaching sociology of religion in this day of increasing ‘nones.’

One of my favorite exercises when I teach sociology of religion is to have the students recite the Pledge as they know it, including “under God,” and then in its pre-1954 language, without the phrase. Some students do hesitate. It makes them uncomfortable. The thing is sacred, after all, and I’m asking them to profane it (for science!). Once we’ve done it, we then talk about how this national prayer establishes religion in our culture, and about how it is potentially as divisive as it is unifying.

I’m not even sure why, but yesterday in my Research Methods course I started to recite the Pledge from somewhere in the middle, right before indivisible (oh right, we were talking about the individual as an indivisible unit of analysis). I said something like, “you know what indivisible means, right, like in the Pledge of Allegiance, one nation, something, something, indivisible…” Probably half of the students gave me a funny look and said, “under God!” One student, I think joking, said to me, “that’s un-American!”

Per suggests we focus on the efficacy of the Pledge rather than its meaning, and argues that daily recitation bound generations of Americans into national community. I agree*, and here I want to apply his argument about the efficacy of the ritual to the interaction ritual I just described. All those years of reciting that pledge, of saying “under God” in the context of affirming patriotism resulted in our classroom interaction. The student didn’t say, “what are you, an atheist?” She said, “that’s un-American.” My skipping over “under God” started our own little interaction ritual because of the meaning she (as a joke or not) attributed to my mumble. I focused on the student, the class focused on us, and I riffed for a minute or two from my sociology of religion lecture about the addition of that divisive phrase. But this was a Methods class, so I assure you we got back to our discussion of units of analysis right away (i.e. This is no dispatch from the front lines of the culture war).


*l also think we need to focus on the contested meanings of rituals, especially of those rituals supported by the state. I doubt very much that Per would disagree with me on that point as he was arguing against those who might call ritual meaningless, which it clearly isn’t (hence the court case).