Excellence with money!

I received a couple of shiny, happy e-mails from Baa Ram U. President Tony Frank about this yesterday.  The details are even more demoralizing than I could have guessed:

FORT COLLINS — Green-and-gold balloons accented the interior of Colorado State’s on-campus football indoor practice facility. It is a building in many ways representing the greatest success of the past regime being used to usher in an ambitious future.

Signs declared Tuesday the beginning of “a bold new era for Ram football.”

A green era. The university threw out lots of it to land its new head coach, Jim McElwain, who is being asked to turn around a program that won just 16 times in the past four seasons. To get Alabama’s offensive coordinator, CSU offered the 49-year-old McElwain a five-year contract with a base salary of $1.35 million, and a $150,000 bonus if his team meets graduation standards.

It is by far the largest sum ever paid to a coach at CSU, and more than double the $700,000 total compensation package the university paid its previous coach, Steve Fairchild. (CU coach Jon Embree, hired a year ago, is making $741,000 a year.)

Athletic director Jack Graham, who was hired Dec. 8, and president Tony Frank insisted they would invest in the football program, and they put their money where their mouths were.

This is a university where students in most colleges now pay a premium of an additional $15 per credit hour for enrolling in upper-division classes.  This is a university where faculty and staff haven’t had raises in four years, and where there is no such thing as a cost-of-living raise for faculty, only merit increases anyway.  Academic departments are constantly being told that times are tough, so that anything we do must be “revenue neutral,” or in other words, excellence without money.  But of course, the AD is never expected to produce excellence without money.

“It’s really a reflection of how good a boss I’ve got and how smart a boss I’ve got,” said Graham of Frank. “He understands that in order to produce returns and have success, you have to make investments. And we’ve made an investment in the most important thing that we can make an investment in, and it’s called people.

“I told him, ‘Tony, this is the market. If we want to get a good head football coach at Colorado State University we’re going to have to spend about a million-and-a-half dollars a year to make that happen.’ ”

Baa Ram U. is officially now a football team with affiliated academic departments whose work must be self-funding via tuition.  In other words, it’s a joke run by fools.  I wonder:  why should I bother standing up for academic values, when my employer aggressively shoves entertainment values in my face?  What’s my incentive to turn in real grades this semester, when just handing out Bs to my students would please most of them?  (When the ones who really deserve As e-mail me to complain, I can just make them happy by changing their grades too.  See?  Entertainment values are awesome!

Why should I bother assigning new books, writing new lectures, and teaching new courses?  Why should I spend my own money to finish researching my current book, because our research budgets are so craptastically inadequate?  Hard work and integrity has earned me the same $60,000 a year I’ve made for the past four years–but guess what?  I can unload that integrity and that commitment to academic values and still make $60,000 a year this year!    Being the vox clamantis in deserto has given me only a sore throat. 

As many of you know, I don’t work blue, but sometimes vulgarity deserves an in-kind response.  Fuck you, Baa Ram U.

30 thoughts on “Excellence with money!

  1. “And we’ve made an investment in the most important thing that we can make an investment in, and it’s called people.” Hahahahahahahahahaha! The “people” meaning the football coach/team at the expense of the people-students-and-faculty-and-all-Coloradans. That is a real LOLsob. And I love how everyone understands paying for excellence in the context of sports and university presidents, but no other aspect of university life.

    Nice they send these big middle fingers to their faculty at the holidays – Merry Christmas! We have nothing but contempt for you!

    No wonder your heart is breaking, H’ann.


  2. “He understands that in order to produce returns and have success, you have to make investments. And we’ve made an investment in the most important thing that we can make an investment in, and it’s called people.”

    Oh how this makes me want to scream.

    The following may reveal my academic affiliation for some readers. So it goes.

    Some years ago our union fought for contract language that requires the university to give fixed term faculty adequate notice if their one-year contracts are not to be renewed the following year. Failing such notice, the university must renew the contract for an additional year. The point of this is to give the fixed term faculty a chance to find other employment if they are not renewed. What this has turned into, in the hands of an administration hostile to collective bargaining, is an annual Christmastime letter to all fixed term faculty that their employment is terminated at the end of their contract. Department heads must sign and deliver these letters.

    The rationale offered by our dean is that this is “a union requirement” and that having all of these letters gives him budgetary flexibility (Really? Your plan to balance the budget is to fire the people who generate major revenue in those huge lower division classes?) The real points of this, as far as I can tell, are two. 1) poke an angry finger into the eye of organized workers. 2) by signing the letter, the department head transfers control of the employee over to the dean’s office. The dean’s office simply wants to hold has many of the cards as it can. I don’t like the second point but at least I get it. I wish they would be honest about it.

    We hired a fancy football coach some years ago. The team kept losing anyway and when our president fired the guy, he told us at a campus-wide meeting that it was a hard thing to do, to fire the coach. Yeah, fire scores of contingent employees, no problem. Fire the f*$#ing football coach, anguish and stress.


  3. Agreed Perpetua, that was my favorite line as well. This topic has always made me upset. We can’t develop our faculty or programs or add PhD programs, but by gosh, we can go to some Bowl Game that no one cares about.

    If it’s any consolation, H’ann, I certainly value your and all my other former professor’s hard work and integrity. You’ve made a drastic difference in my life and I’ll never be able to thank you enough. Even if not by the top, please know you are appreciated.


  4. I think your A.D. is out of his F’ing mind with respect to what the “market” is. A non-flagship school in my neighborhood hired a highly sought-after assistant from Alabama (a non-coordinator, but still) as head coach for $120,000 last year, about half of what he was making in Tuscaloosa. It won’t do any practical good, but I’ll join you in a hearty F.U. B R U!!! (pronounced “foo-brew”). Wow, fluff followed so quickly by a chaser of wankers don’t make for a very good day on-blog…


  5. The lack of cost-of-living increase results in salary stagnation. The buying power of my salary today is equal or smaller than it was when I started at my U about 30 years ago. That doesn’t hold for the administration or our less than shiny AD.

    Universities don’t need AD to excel and the country doesn’t need the military to prosper; neither the Canadian nor the Mexicans are on the attack.

    The ADs are getting out of hand, as do the banks and the health insurance companies. In short, we should not be complaining about global exploitation or global warming. They are facts.

    As Bob Hope said, he was insured by the good hands people but when had a claim he saw only one finger.


  6. This plus the AD’s suggestion that Baa Ram U build a football stadium on campus make me sad. Sure, it’d be privately funded, but where the f$^% is it gonna go? The only options I can think of involve tearing down dorms, taking the space used by other, less popular/lucrative sports, or tearing down older (and invariably liberal arts-related) buildings.

    Just another demonstration of how little Baa Ram U cares about academics. Nothing new to see here.


  7. This is the best bit, in my opinion: that this McElwain guy will also receive “a $150,000 bonus if his team meets graduation standards.” That’s amazing! Teachers, of course, don’t get bonuses for having their students meet graduation standards — but coaches, apparently, do.


  8. @ kira: Quite right. More incentive for coaches to put pressure on teachers to “just be reasonable…” “give the kid [another] break…” More double-binds for athletic department “academic advisors,” who, per Clio Bluestocking, do tend disproportionately to be women. I’m going to e-mail our union to urge them to get a clause in our next contract with faculty bonuses for “time of possession,” “third down conversions,” &c.


  9. Don’t worry Historiann,

    I bet they’ll pay for your football coach by all the “efficiencies” of folding my campus into yours. You’ll have a successful football team, and I’ll have to call up north in order to get my computer fixed.


  10. I’m left wondering why I bothered to argue that there’s a moral difference between for-profit unis and public universities. At least at my institution of Fuck U. U. and at Rutgers, there really isn’t. In fact, I might now argue that at least the for-profits are clear and unambiguous as to where the money is going. The publics like F.U.U. and Rutgers are using their non-profit status as a cover to kite student tuition dollars and taxpayer money to set up their own real-life fantasy football leagues.

    I’m trying to imagine the academic unit at F.U.U. that failed for four years running–losing minors and majors, failing to graduate a reasonable number of majors, and producing majors with no observable skills, harboring faculty whose scholarship and service was repeatedly rated “below average”–that would be REWARDED with NEW HIRES AND MORE MONEY. In fact, we all know that the opposite would happen, and it wouldn’t take four fucking years.

    Might I also suggest that this seems to be a particularly obnoxious moment to announce that F.U.U. is in the business of rewarding failure with money and creating its own overpaid, unaccountable football program in light of the revelations in Happy Valley recently? Because nothing says “nothing matters but winning, and you’re completely unaccountable for anything else” like backing up a dump truck full of money to the football coach.


  11. And, I should say thank you for your support, and how much I appreciate your helpful comments and analysis.

    This surely makes me think that any children Fratguy and I might have will attend liberal arts colleges or places with nonexistent or club football an basketball teams. It reminds me of that old joke about divorce that goes, “why are divorces so expensive?” “Because they’re WORTH IT.” “Why are liberal arts colleges so expensive? Because they’re WORTH IT!”


  12. Maybe this is the wrong analysis to offer, however, but this news made me shake my head for two reasons. First: it is obviously a travesty to pay so much to a football coach while starving the rest of the university. FU University is correct. And second: by nearly everyone’s acclaim, Alabama has been a successful team the last few years because of the *defense*. FUU is now spending $1.35 million to get Alabama’s offensive coordinator. What does it say that the university has not only reached new lows in its abandonment of its mission as an institute of higher learning, but also has done so incompetently?


  13. Great. Now I’m angry on your behalf. I sometimes feel like athletics programs are a straw man for us social science and humanities types to beat up on as a vent for our frustrations with a variety of structural problems in higher education. But every time a funding decision like this is announced, the straw turns to flesh.

    And yes, Historiann, all of this makes people of our turn of mind more likely to point our kids toward SLACs or places that clearly rank academics above athletics and/or entertainment. The fact that this makes us reluctant participants in the increasing socioeconomic gap in access to quality higher education only rankles further. (And yes, before you say it, I know that we don’t earn much. But there is clearly a degree of social capital and class-based habitus that we learn as professors, and which we encourage by sending our kids to hugely expensive SLACs.)


  14. Dr. Koshary: you are exactly correct. I won’t argue with you about the social capital and class-based habitus. Many of us have family and/or alumni/ae connections, at the very least, as well as the means to train and direct our children pretty aggressively towards that track pretty early in their educations. That’s a huge advantage that isn’t directly about parental income. But, given the overall scumminess I’ve now seen firsthand, not to mention the Empires of Rape and exploitation that many football programs become, I think I’ll be goddamned before I’ll send a dime’s worth of tuition to anyplace like that. (I also think that SLAC students enjoy more personal safety, too–don’t know if there’s any data on that. But why wouldn’t I pay for the better, safer, more nurturing environment if I could?)

    And John S.: thanks for following sports closely enough to highlight the absurdity of all of this! I’ll be sure to highlight the team’s record at the end of next year, to let you know exactly how much each win cost the uni.


  15. Welcome to the Boise State model. F.U.U. indeed! Grrrrrr.

    I recently did the calculations, and the football coach makes 31x my salary. This at a place that claims its major goal is to become a “metropolitan research university of distinction.”


  16. It’s all part of a big investment scheme, don’t you know?

    What a load of horse$hit. This is as much an “investment” as those e-mails promising your share of a lost Nigerian fortune, if only you can advance the petitioner a few thousand bucks. (Is there any peer-reviewed research on investments in football teams and corresponding increases in alumni or donor support?)

    Check this out:

    Longtime CSU professor Charles “CW” Miller said it’s easy to tell when the university’s teams are doing well. You can feel it in the classrooms and on campus, he said.

    “But it also goes the other way – if we’re losing all of the time in our big name sports, it takes the energy out of everyone,” said Miller, who has been teaching physiology on the Fort Collins campus for 41 years. “We can’t have losers all the time.”

    Miller, who ran track at Purdue, said he wonders how the university can find the money to pay out Fairchild and Kowalczyk but can’t hire a Nobel Prize-winning scientist. He said it seems like universities keep ratcheting up their spending on athletics to keep up with their peers, which in turn raises the bar again.

    He said universities always seem to find the money to pay coaches and build athletics facilities.

    “We’ve never had a Nobel prize winner on campus,” he said. “Why not? Can we not afford them?”

    Maybe the football team comes up in Physiology classes, but it never comes up in my classes. I don’t “feel” like the team’s misadventures have driven down morale–in fact, I think that morale is low because tuition has continued to rise while classes have gotten larger and while departments continue to rely on overworked adjunct faculty.

    Still, Miller makes a good point. Why not invest DIRECTLY in academics in order to raise the quality of academics, instead of going for the Nigerian fortune scheme? I haven’t heard of any Nobelists who have been accused of running labs or research centers in which they used their stature to molest children, either.


  17. Nothing to add to the general disgust, except that you – and all committed scholars and teachers – deserve better. Heck, I think it might be good to hire, oh, 15 historians at $100,000 a year. That would spend an equal amount of money to invest in people, the most important thing you can invest in, and education, the purpose of the institution.



  18. “He [Tony Frank] understands that in order to produce returns and have success, you have to make investments.”

    If I were you (other than probably having been arrested for attacking the Uni President), I would get this sentence blown up into a poster and put on my door. And, everytime I was asked to do something without money, I would quote it back at them. I might even be inclined to make it my email signature.

    Do you have a Union in Colorado? I’d a thought that they would use this to beat the university over the head with in any negotiation for the next decade. I always reckon if they give you rope…


  19. I’m so with you on this, Historiann. Here at Rust Belt U, our apparently beloved football coach quit to take a better job (bigger U, more money, higher profile) and a national search was *immediately* announced. Meanwhile, the last Arts and Sciences dean hired in a national search stepped down *five* *years* ago and we’ve had interim-to-permanent internal or local appointments ever since. Not that internal appointments are a bad thing (though these were, actually), but the university admins crow about the importance of a national search for a football “program” of our caliber (ha! we’re Div I, but penny-ante stuff). So, where’s the search for dean, huh?

    Yup, a joke run by fools.


  20. Feminist Avatar: you are brilliant. I’m going to take your suggestion. As Joan Jett once sang, “I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation.” Oh, no no no, not me me me.

    I’ve spent ten years building up a reputation as a generally cheerful, cooperative company gal. I’m not viewed as a chronic complainer or a bitch, at least not by most. 2012 is going to be a new year indeed.


  21. What really chaps my ass in that press release. The COACH gets a bonus if his players meet the graduation standard. So he’s getting a financial incentive to deputize his staffers to phone up faculty and scream at them to pass their football players that they won’t actually let come to class because they have to practice and go to away games.

    It’s only even more jaw-droppingly tone-deaf when you realize that the prospective bonus he’s looking at is enough to pay the salaries of two to three full-time tenure academics.


  22. I read enough comments to see how angry this makes everyone. But what are you going to DO about it? All this ventilating is mental masturbation. It may feel good but what does it accomplish? Until university employees figure out a way to force the hands of those holding the purse strings — lawmakers in the public sector, nothing is going to change. Whining to the public will get you nowhere. Frankly, faculty are up the creek without a paddle — there are not enough faculty in the country to provoke a change. Unions are being neutered by Republican governors.

    Big time football programs don’t get revenue from tuition, fees or state appropriations. They get it from ticket revenue and boosters who don’t care a bit about academics. So the 7 figure salaries of head coaches are just going to continue. Maybe the faculty can provoke a change to cause the ticket and television revenue to be diverted to faculty and staff salaries. But the chances of that are about the same of winning the lottery.

    It’s a buyer’s market for faculty. We can be replaced, but that is not really an issue either, becuase rants like most of the comments above are empty. And BTW, for presumed faculty, there are a lot of assumptions made, like the coaches are going to put pressure on faculty to give underserved grades to althletes. It’s also possible they will put pressure on the athletes to be better students. (Of course that begs the question of whether football players are students at all, because Division I is just pro football’s unpaid minor leagues. Another example of exploitation, but this not of the faculty.)

    Our society has misplaced priorities, plain and simple, and it simply is not going to change.


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