There's So Much Money Going Around, Well, Mostly

By Johnny Ginter on May 15, 2013 at 2:00p
<3 uWorkin' for the man every night and day

Zach Smith, Ohio State wide receivers coach, walks slowly through the doorframe of a dilapidated plywood shack, an icy wind cutting through his trembling visage and shaking him to his very marrow.

He is met by his wife, a stout Irish lass with soft black hair, and his two sons; thin, toes poking out of their threadbare socks as they look up at him with watery eyes of deep brown.

"So, husband? Surely Mister Urban was generous this time?"

"Yes, daddy! A-Are we going to be able to eat meat? Did you get your raise?"

Zach cannot bear to meet the gaze of his hopeful family. He bites his lower lip, staring sadly at the ceiling.

"Yes, son. I got that raise. But..." Zach grips his wife's shoulder as he gives his loving family the devastating news, "'s only five thousand more dollars. I'm afraid... I'm afraid we have to eat Rufus. Get me his leash."


You could've avoided this scene, Urban! But no, no, your miserly ways have once again forced a family man to resort to eating a beloved family pet. Have you no shame? Do you really believe that a man can live off of $155,000? How do you sleep at night knowing that you forced Luke Fickell to take a pay cut of $150,000, meaning that he is now going to have to find some way to keep his family alive on a mere 600,000?

This is no way to manage your employees. They are human beings, coach, not playthings for you to abuse and manipulate in your never ending quest for fame and championships. You sicken me.

Zach Smith will probably, probably be okay. $155,000 should be enough to buy bread and milk for his family, assuming the sales tax isn't too bad for him.

And, to be fair to Urban, he did recently raise the salaries for his assistants by a decent amount. The top three salaries for assistant coaches at Ohio State now make north of 1.7 million combined, and even the head man himself got a nice 158k raise in his Christmas stocking this year.

The crazy thing is that this all pales in comparison to some of the salaries that the perpetually sunny and kind Nick Saban is giving to his assistants, along with some other major (mostly southern) programs. To wit:

• Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart’s salary was raised to $1.2 million earlier this year.

• LSU is paying defensive coordinator John Chavis $1.1 million, and hired former Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron for that same job with a three-year, $3.4 million contract.

• At Clemson, offensive coordinator Chad Morris is in the midst of a six-year contract that pays him $1.3 million annually, and defensive coordinator Brent Venables is expected to make $850,000 this year.

And Clemson's defense kind of sucks! Imagine what he'd make if Clemson was as good defensively as, say, the Ohio Bobcats, which fielded a slightly better scoring D with a head coach that makes $350,000 less than Venables. Cam Cameron, whose mid-season firing ended up improving a team enough that it went from also-ran to winning the Super Bowl, managed to get over 1.1 million a year thrown at him by a guy who eats grass.

No ice cream, no comic books, no NUTHINbraxton_miller.jpg

How do you even explain this to a person in real life? That people, some with marginal rates of success, have access to Scrooge McDuckian levels of cash that is increasing as exponentially as the profits are from the apparatus that props them up, and that there is zero chance of that ever being regulated or leveling off. Can furrowed brows create electrical power? There might be money in that.

Still, I'm not here to rant about salaries per se; it'd be easy for me, as a high school teacher with a Master's degree that'll make just slightly north of $39,000 next year (after a 1.5% raise, party at my place!) to whine and complain about our misplaced priorities as a society and how we have a system that's set up to glorify and venerate those who don't particularly need that glory and veneration, but that's old hat.

All true, but old hat.

The thing is, I work very hard, have a decent education, and I get paid to do something I genuinely enjoy doing. The money I make is enough for me, and frankly is not a consideration for me as far as whether I want to do a job or not.

If I could pay my loans and rent and take my girlfriend out to the movies sometimes, I'd be okay with making half of what I am right now (please do not take this seriously, current employer), and I'm even okay with knowing that people with a similar education as mine have a ridiculously higher earning potential than I do, because I love my job.

But as much as I love my job, and as important I think it is for the public good, I wouldn't do it for free. And I probably wouldn't do it for almost free, either.

The combined raises for Everett Withers, Tom Herman, Ed Warinner, Kerry Coombs, Stan Drayton, Mike Vrabel, Tim Henton, Zach Smith, and Urban Meyer totaled $504,000. That's enough to pay the 88 named football players on the official Ohio State football website over $5,700 each, and it strikes me as odd that even though the competition for recruits is unarguably tougher and more cutthroat than the hiring of coaches, the money involved is magnitudes less (some schools excepted).

It's understandable, then, that players present and former are beginning to question their role in this situation. Referring to the recent lawsuit against the NCAA about the use of player likenesses in video games, University of Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman had this to say about the issue:

 "If you’re going to start paying players and making this professional, then I don’t think it can be defended that this ought to be within the context of higher education," Perlman said. "The fact that [University of Alabama head football coach] Nick Saban makes $6 million I think is an outrage, but that doesn’t have anything to do with whether you pay athletes."

I disagree, but to make that argument, two things need to happen: first, colleges need to start offering up legitimate reasons why players aren't entitled to that money. Players, whose devotion to their craft is just as strong as my devotion to mine, are being continually reminded by these new contracts and raises given to their coaches that their own services aren't as valuable, despite the fact that they're the ones actually playing the game.

Colleges that can afford to help out a fictitious version of Zach Smith by throwing him 5k can certainly help out a real version of a kid from a poor household that is clearly doing a financial service to the university in the same capacity as any official employee.

Second, someone needs to fully quantify what the college football player is owed through his services and what he receives in return. A serious conversation about this issue cannot take place until both sides are frank and honest about the hours a student-athlete works, the stipend that they receive, and the overall net monetary value of what a player in an athletic program means to a university.

Ultimately, this isn't about how poor Zach Smith won't be able to give his children fancy wines without an extra five thousand dollars in his paycheck, or even about how Curtis Grant won't be able to put a down payment on a used 2001 Chevy Cavalier without help, or even even about whether someone can buy some McNuggets for Carlos Hyde without it being a rules violation.

It's about what's fair, and what's equitable. And it's time for schools to justify why they think the current system is both.


Comments Show All Comments

DJ Byrnes's picture

Paying players would ruin fall Saturdays as we know it! And no, I don't need any facts or logic to make this statement because I am an idiot.

Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.

thePITman's picture

Give me a break. With the way tuition is increasing, college student-athletes seem to get raises more often then the staff whose JOB it is to help them. I'm sorry - if somebody is paying me (or paying for things for me), and in return I provide them a service (in this situation, playing football), that is payment enough! How much do McDonald's workers get paid? How much profit does McDonald's make every year? They're happy to have a job, getting paid for work. College football players get paid to play a game; and if they don't go professional, they got a free degree. Receiving an athletic scholarship of ANY amount, let alone a full ride, is an honor and a rare privilege! Asking for more is absolutely naive and selfish, in my opinion. - Northeast Ohio Sports Opinions and Numbers

Dean's picture

The difference is that you, and the McDonald's workers, have a choice to do the same thing elsewhere, and the opportunity to at least try to get paid more elsewhere.  Imagine a world where all possible employers for whatever your specialty is were permitted to get together and agree that they would only pay people in your profession not only less than you would otherwise be able to make, but in a form that you didn't want and couldn't turn around and sell immediately (say, 100 fridge magnets with your full name on them for every hour worked).

Nick's picture

College athletes have the same opportunity as well. They are being groomed for a few jobs. They can be a pro athlete if good enough. The training and exposure the university provides that opportunity. Or not good enough for professional ball hopefully they are savvy enough to be earning a degree in a field they are interested in and can get a job in the normal market like most people. ORRRRRRRR they can stay in football as a graduate assistant and rise the ranks up to be a college or NFL coach. 

CanadianBuckeye's picture

To be fair college players have options to play else where, and the form of payment they get CAN be turned around and sold immediately (education can be sold to potential employers).
Also, football players are not FORCED to go to college and miss out on oppurtunities to make money, they are able to play CFL or arena football and I am sure there are other lower level professional leagues they  could go to to earn money while waiting the three years to become NFL eligible.  (I may be wrong on that, just my understanding of it.)
EDIT- Nick above me is much better with words and is pointing to the same idea as me in my first statement.  I am not so great at expressing my thoughts through the majesty of internet text.  Cheers Nick!

omahabeef1337's picture

McDonald's employees are very easily replaceable. Braxton Miller is not, or else we wouldn't all hold our collective breath every time he hits the ground.

acBuckeye's picture

Ok.... what about the 3rd string left guard? How easily replaceable is he? Should he get paid as much as Braxton? These are the questions we get faced with if we start paying players.

roger8219's picture

If you truly think student athletes are adequately compensated, then why not allow colleges to bid for their services? Presumably, the market will fairly compensate them--and if what you say is true, nothing will change.
In my opinion, telling other people that they shouldn't ask for more when the market will clearly give it to them, is naive, selfish, and myopic. That's centralized economic planning.

buckeyepastor's picture

If it sounds socialist, it's because the NCAA, while being a business, is a part of a public trust.   I'm sorry if it's a capitalist outrage that Brax's exploits raise millions that are funneled to everything from swimming to fencing to hockey, but that's part of being a part of a university system.   They don't have  to get a free education for their services.  They can go to other sports leagues.   I realize they wouldn't get what the NFL pays, but if the NFL realistically believed for a second that an 18 year old was ready to play in their league the way others are ready to play baseball or basketball or hockey, they would do that.   Truth is if you want to talk about the NCAA as a sort of "developmental league" for the NFL, it is compensating kids way better than most minor league baseball teams or the NBADL, even if it's not in cash.   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

roger8219's picture

Oh is the NCAA exempt from antitrust laws? I honestly wasn't aware of that. My impression was that the O'Bannon case will address that question (and all indications I've heard is that they are very likely to lose). The nytimes article that addressed this question several months ago seemed to explicitly deny that the NCAA has an antitrust exemption.

Maybe if you could expand on what you mean by "public trust". What is the significance of being a public trust? Is this a legally defined term?

rdubs's picture

The NCAA is not exempt from anti-trust laws, however many if not all of the major pro-leagues are which is why salary caps are allowed.

Torpedo Vegas's picture

Only baseball is exempt from anti-trust laws. There is no reason for this besides the Supreme Court said so one time, see Flood v. Kuhn. All the other professional leagues are subject to anti-trust scrutiny; however the players have ceded their ability to sue in most cases because of the collective bargaining relationship between the league and the players' union. Hence labor fights lead to a decertification of the union, so the players can bring an antitrust action in court. Salary caps are allowed because they are a restriction, but they promote competitive balance, which benefits the consumer.

rdubs's picture

I guess you are primarily right.  The other leagues have limited anti-trust exemption with regard to broadcasting.  I learned something today, it's been a successful day!

okiebuck's picture

The colleges do bid for their services; it's called the recruiting process; and the student athlete to be; makes a CHOICE of where he will "take his talents" for which he receives a full scholarship as well as other benefits. He could also make other choices; such as the aforementioned job at McDonalds; or elsewhere; or come up with a better mouse trap and start a business; fill in the blank; the point is; is it's his choice. I wonder how many athletes have student loan debt when they ether graduate or leave school early for a better offer?

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

roger8219's picture

If you call this bidding, it's not competitive bidding. It's bidding wherein all the bidders agree that they'll only offer a certain amount before attending the auction--which is anti-competitive. It'd be like if all the fastfood restaurants in town got together and decided they would only pay any given applicant a dollar an hour. And you say to an applicant to McDonalds: hey you have a CHOICE to go work at Wendys (which is also offering a dollar per hour).

NW Buckeye's picture

Ramzy hit the nail on the head with this:
Parasites of the Gridiron
It is easy to look at coaches salaries and think there is a lot of money being thrown around, but in far too many schools that money is coming from the taxpayers.  Paying the players will only increase the burden on taxpayers (I know OSU does not subsidize it's Athletic Department, but they are one of the few who don't). 

Jugdish's picture

I liked your article. Very witty intro. Let me be the first to offering you thanks for being a teacher. Life's hardest and often times the least respected profession. Keep up the good work on 11W and also in the classroom. 

Remember to get your wolverine spayed or neutered. TBDBITL

Catch 5's picture

Why would anyone downvote this?

Make their asses quit! - Nick Saban

cinserious's picture

All this excessive $$$ being generated by the (amateur) game of CFB should be used to fund reasearch  at universities like trying to cure cancer and AIDS, alzheimers, diabetes. Things that would elevate society as a whole. 

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

chitown buckeye's picture

Good read. I have always been in the camp of flat out paying a player seemed ridiculous to me. I have finally finished paying off my tuition 15 yrs later. I know others that have another 15yrs to go. I think the argument of the scholarship as payment is a good one.
However, I think certain rules need to be addressed from both sides and an open conversation about topics such as. 1) Schools blatantly selling jerseys that are clearly the main stars of the team. (ie selling a 5 jersey right now, you're not fooling anyone on who that is by with holding the name off the back) 2) should a player be able to make money on his/her own? Selling an autograph, appearances, etc..
I would side with the players on this stuff more so than finding a flat fee to "pay" them monthly. It is definitely an interesting topic and a fine line either way.

"I'm having a heart attack!"

buckeyepastor's picture

Agreed.  Michael Wiley deserves compensation from jersey sales.  

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

AC1972's picture

I do not believe in paying players, they are given enough by the university and they have the option to not play. That is life.

However, to expand upon the thought above, I do believe that they should be able to profit from their own personal enterprise. If Braxton can get a job doing a commercial or signing autographs or selling t-shirts, then so be it. That is also life and free Enterprise. Let Braxton sell jerseys with his name on it. The university, Nike and Brax would all get a cut. Free enterprise.

These students are signing offer letters, they should not be signing away the lives and likenesses.

Johnny_Buck71's picture

Some of this is readily quantifiable: cost of tuition, average salary from a college degree over a lifetime, student loan interest, etc. 
Not so easy to quantify: Running onto field in front of 100k fans, beating Michigan, Carmen Ohio at end of the game, and so many other experiences of a lifetime. In my opinion, thats priceless. 
So add it all up, I think it's a pretty good deal. 

A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore. - Yogi Berra

Buckeyeneer's picture

Don't be fooled, trust in Urban. Coach Smith was given a small raise for a reason. To keep him hungry, plus as a young guy on the staff, he needs to pay his dues. If he keeps on killing it on the recruiting trail and on the field he'll get a sizable raise next year.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

Earle's picture

And its not as if the WR's set the world on fire last season.  I imagine Urban runs his coaching staff much like he runs the team itself.  Performance is rewarded.  I'm sure if we see a big leap in production from that position group, which we all hope for and expect, he'll be compensated accordingly.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

otrain2416's picture

^ completely agree. I thought position wise our WR were sub par last year. I know they were learning a new system but so was our offensively line and RBs and they looked great

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.

RedStorm45's picture

Wonder what the next D.C. will garner, considering Urban has Fickell and Withers as co-coordinators.  That's upwards of $1.1 on defensive coordinators, right?

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

Good article Johnny.  I am also in the same boat as you.  My wife and I are both teachers. 
On the other subject, I don't believe players should get paid to play college football.  I'd like to look at the statistics of which players would actually be in college WITHOUT a football scholarship.  They're already paid through their tuition and if they don't make it to the NFL, they'll get a free degree and connections through the largest alumni base (OSU) in the country.

buckeyepastor's picture

You know those loans you mentioned in your article?  The players won't have those.   They walk out of college debt free which, factoring in interest, is worth upwards of $100,000.  I know it's not sexy or impressive, but I'm a little sick of these kids who are the "one-percenters" of those aged 18-22 crying that they're getting nothing out of the deal.    

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

yrro's picture

So the fact that they are getting paid at all means that whether their payment is in any way in proportion to the revenue they generate doesn't matter?

roger8219's picture

I don't know of anybody denying that student athletes get something; the scholarships are obviously valuable. But do you get decide what's fair compensation? I should hope nobody in particular gets to make that decision; leave it to the market.

unknownmusketeer's picture

I withdraw my suggestion

45OH4IO's picture

The real issue is the lack of compensation for punters. We need to stop kidding ourselves and realize these games just boil down to who can give up the possession the best. I dont care how many powerful speeches, one handed catches, or bone jarring tackles there are. Its all a waste of time and its a travesty that these kickers (who really do need good shoes, sorry zach & fam) are neglected, belittled and abused without getting their due compensation!

Earle's picture


Snarkies gonna snark. 

45OH4IO's picture

Get your own sweater vests and white hightops. Im not sharing.

rdubs's picture

The organization really getting a good deal in this is the NFL.  They have a great development league without any of the cost or hassle that a sport like baseball has.

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Man, I agree those pay raises sure would be nice.  Even the "lower paid" coaches are still making some pretty good money.  I should have went into coaching! 
Another interesting article Johnny.  Good job.
Go Bucks!

Buckaroo's picture

Admittedly, I am old school. Having put myself through 12 long years of education at OSU, I believe that a free quality education and the connections made through OSU athletics is payment enough for any COLLEGE Student/athlete!
The assistant coaches at OSU earn every dime they are paid and deserve more IMHO!


rdubs's picture

I don't understand how players get "enough" but coaches don't.  Clearly if the NCAA sanctions were lifted they would end up getting paid more, so how did you determine that it is enough for players but not for coaches?  I just don't understand that rationale.

darbnurb's picture

Don't pay college players!  And don't allow us to buy video games and jerseys using their name and talent without their permission or access to the cash it generates.  Have I oversimplified the issue?  

acBuckeye's picture

 despite the fact that they're the ones actually playing the game.

Exactly Johnny. You just made my point for me by typing the above. The student athletes are playing a GAME. It's their choice. Nobody is forcing them to do this. It's a game, NOT a job. Does it require a ton of commitment?? Of course it does, especially if you want to excel at it. But again, nobody is forcing you to strap that helmet on and tighten those shoulder pads.
This is the same argument I make to those who want to tighten the safety rules in football and other sports. You don't like it? Afraid of getting hurt? DON'T PLAY! It's that simple.

rdubs's picture

You are right, no one is forcing them to play, but they are forcing them to receive less pay than they otherwise would.  Coaches have no such restriction, why should players? 

roger8219's picture

I agree with RDUBS. Further, I don't understand the significance of saying that it's a game. NFL players also play a game. Is this an argument that they shouldn't be paid either?

stevebelliseeya's picture

PLEASE give me a free college education, unlimited ohio state clothing, unlimited access to good food, unlimited access to physical training, respect and awe from the rest of the student body, and a firm footing going into my post college days......OH YAH CAN YOU PAY ME TOO? 

Never pay them but please reiterate constantly the reasons why so that people will  understand the benefits of a scholarship.

"We are eternal. All this pain is an illusion." - Tool

OrangeDot3083's picture

That opening was a reference to History Channels Vikings right?