Driving home from last night's Ole Miss - Georgia basketball game, I was listening to Jay Bilas offer his opinion on the Lane Kiffin situation and the college coaching contract breaches. His position was that the fault lay with the president's of the NCAA institutions. He said that they simply had to pass a rule stating that they could not hire a coach that is already under contract. My first thought was that for a lawyer, this was pretty silly thinking.
If such a rule were passed, it would be impractical because that would mean that unless fired, no coach in the country could move to another position. If such a rule were passed, the litigation floodgates would surely open.
So is there a solution? Maybe not, but in a column on StateCollege.com, Penn State quarterback's coach Jay Paterno talks about how, as a "professional lifer" in college coaching he is unhappy about the state of the profession. In a thought along the lines of Bilas, Paterno writes:
Both university administrators and coaches know the contracts aren’t worth the paper they are written on. From the moment the contract is settled, the cost of the buyout is set. Schools and coaches all know what it will cost for either side to get out of the contract.
But he also offers context:
Years ago many of the men got into coaching in spite of the low pay. To give you some perspective, in 1966 Joe Paterno shook hands with Penn State President Eric Walker and was told the pay was $20,000 a year...
...There were no negotiations, no agents, no buyout clauses, and he was a tenured member of the faculty. Tenure was a bit of a safety net — and a reminder that the coach was part of an academic institution and not bigger than the institution...
...A coach with tenure. That idea seems quaint by today’s standards. Who needs tenure when you can pack your bags and bolt for the next job?
and a scathing assessment of his peers:
This profession has lost touch with the reality of the world around us, and some coaches have lost touch with what the mission of our profession should be.
It wasn’t too long ago that we saw head coaches' salaries go past the $1 million dollar mark — they have now surpassed the $5 million mark with no sign of slowing down. We are starting to look as arrogant as the Wall Street bankers raking in seven-figure bonuses.
The astronomical explosion in coaching salaries continues at a time of 10 percent unemployment in America and exploding tuition costs burdening working class families.
I am not saying that every coach should take a vow of poverty or stay at his school for three decades, but we must remember what has made ours a noble profession. It is the mission of our profession: the use of sport to help young men transition from high school and prepare them for the world that awaits them after college.
Unfortunately, the views of both Bilas and Paterno will probably fall on deaf ears. But Paterno's thoughts are closer to the roots of college football than any others that have been written and said in the past few days.
Thanks to Kathleen Hessert of Sports media Challenge for tweeting the Paterno article.