An Incentive to Succeed?
A recent article in The Washington Post took a look at the salary structure within the head coaching ranks of the nation’s colleges and universities. It was an illuminating article, but what jumped out at us here at Black Issues was a chart that listed the financial incentives written into the contract of the University of Florida’s head football coach, Steve Spurrier. That story and a chart appearing in a recent edition of USA Today motivated us to research the graduation rates at the “Top 25” football schools.According to The Washington Post, Spurrier’s 1998 incentives include:One month’s salary — $15,056 — for an appearance in Southeastern Conference (SEC) championship game; Two-and-a-half months’ salary — $37,639 — for an appearance in either the Orange, Sugar, Fiesta, or Rose Bowl;Two months’ salary — $30,112 — for an appearance in any other bowl game;$50,000 for winning the national championship in addition to the bowl bonus;$1,000 if the graduation rate for his team is at least 40 percent;$1,000 if the graduation rate for his team is at least 50 percent;One month’s salary — $15,056 — if the graduation rate for his team is at least 60 percent; and10 percent of his salary — $18,067 — if the graduation rate for his team is at least 80 percent.Florida — which garnered a 10-2 record after beating Syracuse University in the Orange Bowl, 31-10 — finished second in the SEC to the eventual national champion, the University of Tennessee. Despite the second-place finish, Florida did not play in the conference’s championship game. However after completing a season with at least 10 wins for the sixth consecutive time, it can hardly be said that Spurrier’s year was disastrous. And the $37,639 he got for the Orange Bowl appearance certainly made it more profitable.Then, we took a look at the graduation rates for the institutions with the Top 25 college football teams as ranked by the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll — Florida ranked sixth. The graduation rates were provided by the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) and covered those freshmen entering higher education in 1991-92. Spurrier, who has the most lucrative contract of any college football coach in the nation, signed the six-year deal in 1997. He has been Florida’s head football coach since 1990. But if the graduation-rate incentives are tied to the 1998 NCAA report, then Spurrier’s year could be viewed as disastrous. And it definitely was not a finance-enhancing performance — not by half. Just 20 percent of Florida’s football players who entered in 1991-92 have graduated, and only 15 percent of the African American football players. (The chart below does not break down the schools by sport.)Is this Spurrier’s fault? That’s a hard call. Maybe if graduation rates were worth the big bucks instead of bowl appearances, the coach might have seen to it that his student athletes completed their education. But then, the strong financial pull that the National Football League has on these young men also has to be factored into the equation. — Eric St. John
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