Fred Grimm

Fred Grimm: Don’t worry, millions spent to pursue UF’s new coach was for “educational purpose”

Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain speaks during an introductory press conference on December 6, 2014 in Gainesville, Florida. McElwain has left Colorado State and replaces ex-Florida coach Will Muschamp who was fired earlier this season.
Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain speaks during an introductory press conference on December 6, 2014 in Gainesville, Florida. McElwain has left Colorado State and replaces ex-Florida coach Will Muschamp who was fired earlier this season. Getty Images

The immensity of what boosters call his “annual compensation” package ought to be shocking. Florida’s premier state university will be paying Jim McElwain 22 times more than its average full professor.

Of course, you’re not shocked. Not by the extravagant riches heaped upon men associated with the college sports cartel. Not lately.

After all, the University of Florida will be paying its new football coach less than half of what that august institution of higher learning, the University of Alabama, pays its football coach. McElwain’s $3.5 million qualifies as a middling salary for a head coach among universities that aspire to be like Bama (where the coach makes 40 times more than a prof.)

The deal did manage set a national record, however ignominious, for a certain insane expenditures by a college in pursuit of a coach.

McElwain’s former employer, Colorado State University, received $7 million to allow the coach to break his contract — reportedly the largest buyout fee ever in college sports. And aren’t we proud.

The UF boosters — University of Florida Athletic Association — will pay the Colorado school $3 million, McElwain will eventually give the school $2 million and UF guaranteed CSU another $2 million for playing a future game against the Gators.

All this in addition to the considerable money that Florida must pay former coach Will Muschamp to go away. Muschamp will collect $6 million over the next three years for doing nothing. His assistant coaches are due another $2 million.

Back in 2012, Muschamp was deemed such a brilliant coach that he was given a contract extension until 2017. A few injuries, some bad luck, a few prospects falter and a coach’s brain seems to shrink. Until it’s worth millions upon millions to get rid of the former genius.

None of this ought to concern the public, we’re told, because most of this money gets funneled through the university’s athletic association, which derives its money from boosters contributions. Of course, those donations are tax-deductible under the ruse that the college jock booster clubs are non-profit 501(c)3 charitable outfits dedicated to “education purposes.” According to federal law, their expenditures, such as paying upward of $11 million to buy out the contracts of the incoming and outgoing coaches, “must be beneficial to the public.”

So, in a sense, all us federal taxpayers helped ante up the big bucks for those buyouts and McElwain’s hefty new contract. Apparently, luring away football coaches from one public university to another, creating an artificial market to jack up compensation for coaches and their assistants, has some beneficial public purpose.

It’s just that the benefits of ever-escalating coaches’ pay seem a bit obscure in Florida with the news about the big bucks for McElwain coming the same week that the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 50 of Florida’s 67 counties, including Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties, have experienced a decline in average workers’ wages over the last decade.

The incongruity of that ought to be shocking. Except that no one’s shocked.

  Comments