Of the top 10 highest-paid employees at Purdue University, seven are employed by Purdue Athletics, and one is Purdue President Mitch Daniels.
The statistics shouldn’t come as a surprise, as collegiate coaches usually rank among the highest-paid employees at universities nationwide. According to figures by Business Insider, the highest-paid college football coach in 2017, Nick Saban, made over $11 million in a single year, while the highest-paid university president, Nathan Hatch at Wake Forest University, made just over $4 million, according to Forbes.
The average Purdue faculty member, on the other hand, makes $54,600 a year.
Naturally, the vast gap between compensations for coaches and professors can lead many to argue that professors should be paid more and coaches less, that such high salaries make colleges focus more on athletics than academics and even that coaches should all have to teach classes at the university level to earn their pay.
What some fail to take into account, however, is the fact that the money that pays for coaches’ salaries comes from an entirely different source than that which pays for professors — in fact, Purdue Athletics is entirely self-sufficient.
The 2017 NCAA Revenues and Expenses report shows the Purdue Athletics department had about $84 million in operating revenue and $85 million in operating expenses. According to Colleen Garrity, the assistant fiscal director for Purdue Athletics, the difference is accounted and paid for by reserves in the athletics fund.
The Athletics department spends an insane amount of money, it’s true. Coaches are paid millions to train their teams into performing shape, to make the University look better for prospective students and investors, to stay even as other universities are offering competitive salaries to coaches to help their own teams succeed.
But, the Athletics department also accrues enough to offset nearly all of the costs of each season. According to the NCAA report, ticket sales, media rights and various contributions to the department account for more than $54 million of the $84 million revenue for the year. The remaining revenue is divided into 16 different categories, none of which come close to touching the money that goes toward professors’ salaries.
Should professors be paid more?
Most definitely, especially when the average limited-term lecturer made $16,100 in 2017.
But blaming coaches for siphoning money away from faculty salaries just doesn’t make sense. It’s uncomfortable to think about how the Athletics department of an academic institution makes and spends millions of dollars when some professors are paid relatively negligible amounts, but the University’s budget doesn’t account for how people feel about the balance between academia and athletics.
All the budget can do is make sure the University’s balance stays in the black each year.