Congratulations to Texas head coach Mack Brown on his new pay grade. Starting next year, Mack will become the highest-paid college football coach in the country, earning at least $5.1 million per year and surpassing Pete Carroll’s annual salary of $4.4 million at USC.
I know a lot of academics on the education side of things are scratching their heads and wondering why an institution of higher learning would pay so much to its football coach. Here’s why.
In the spring of 1999, I met up with one of my NFL players, Deems May, who played for Brown at North Carolina. We were in Austin, Texas, on business, and Deems took me to the football offices to meet Brown. Mack and Deems were pretty tight, so he thought it was a great opportunity for me to make some inroads at Texas. However, I was a little concerned about how I would be received, being an NFL agent scoping out his seniors.
When we walked into Mack’s impressive, spacious office, he made me feel right at home. He offered me a drink and asked questions about my background, my family and my business relationship with Deems. He understood the importance of my role in football’s food chain and offered up his appreciation.
I asked him about the university’s new football facilities, and he gave us a guided tour. As we walked and talked in a casual yet engaging fashion, Mack explained the responsibilities he has for the football assets of the university. Then it hit me — this coach is actually the CEO of a $100-million income-producing asset. He has to assemble and manage a staff, set the pay structure and recruit and manage over 60 players and their parents. He must also appease the university president, board of regents and the athletic director and keep the very powerful UT boosters association happy. And he has to get to know every one of them and be accessible when they come calling.
Mack has to shake a lot of hands, be at a lot of places, deliver a lot of speeches, return a lot of phone calls and go to lots of fancy dinners and backyard barbeques while smiling the whole time. He’s a “good ol’ boy,” politician, grandfather figure and Fortune 500-type CEO all wrapped into one. He easily works 12-hour-plus days every day of the year. Oh, and he has to coach his football team.
If you’ve ever seen the facilities at Texas, you can appreciate his job and responsibilities. Although he has only one national championship, he runs a profitable operation that actually sends about $2 million a year of those profits to the university. USA Today reported that the Texas athletics program spent $111 million and had a surplus of $9.2 million in the 2007/2008 fiscal year. Although Super-AD DeLoss Dodds helps to oversee the assets as well, Brown is the face of the university and the captain of the ship.
A university’s football program may not be the most important asset on campus, but it’s the ambassador and its front-door step. And Mack Brown is the guy standing on the step waving you in or saying hello.
As an agent who represents coaches, I believe we’ll start seeing more $5-million-per-year football coaches in the next few years. Winning football games produces revenue, fills stadiums, electrifies a campus and helps get the alumni off the sofa and back on campus.
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