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College Sports' Fat Cats

Lost in the crush of NBA Playoff and Major League Baseball headlines were some astounding numbers released last week.

Item: Pac-12 Conference Commissioner Larry Scott earned $4.8 million in compensation during the 2016 calendar year, according to the conference’s tax return. The commissioners of the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Big 12 are also in the same tax bracket.

Item: A survey conducted by and USA Today revealed that the average salary for Power Five Conference Athletic Directors is $927,744.

Sit back and think about those numbers for a moment.

Conference commissioners, who never play a down, score a point or throw a strike, make almost $5 million a year.

Athletic Directors, who likewise never make a tackle, block a shot or field a grounder, rake in $1 million.

You might also recall this year’s survey of football coaching salaries, which showed that 39 college head coaches make $3 million or more; seven are over $7 million. Most offensive and defensive coordinators at Power Five schools now earn over $1 million, topped by LSU’s defensive coordinator at a nifty (and ridiculous) $2.5 million.

As for the student-athletes who actually throw the footballs, dribble the basketballs and catch the baseballs…the athletes who draw the fans that fill the stadiums…the athletes who attract the TV viewers and generate the huge network rights fees? Well, they get a scholarship.

Seems like everyone’s getting rich except the young people who are doing the heavy lifting.

It was fine back in the day when Bill Walsh was making $40,000 to coach Stanford and his best player, Darrin Nelson, was getting a scholarship worth about $8,000. Now it borders on the obscene.

We’ve written about this many times before, so no sense beating a dead horse here.

But something’s very wrong with this picture.

More numbers: In addition to Scott’s salary, the Pac-12 reported that total revenues for the financial year 2016-17 reached $509 million and distributions to member schools reached $371 million. These were reported as all-time highs.

Looking behind the numbers, a couple of things stand out, as noted by the Pac-12 Hotline’s

Jon Wilner and's Dennis Dodd.

1) The $371 million distribution breaks down to $30.9 million per school. That’s well below the $41 million per school doled out by the SEC and the $34.3 million paid by the Big 12. (The Big Ten and ACC haven’t released numbers yet, but the BIG will be close to $40 million, leaving the Pac-12 a distant fourth among Power Five Conferences).

2) The Pac-12 earned $509M and paid out $371, which means only 73% of conference revenue was returned to members. (The other Power Five conferences reportedly return at least 90%).

So the Pac-12 had $138M in expenses, which reflects both a bloated conference office, as duly noted by Cal Chancellor Carol Christ, among others, and the high cost of the Pac-12 Network.

Not a good look.

Parting Shot: Notre Dame's Arike Ogunbowale, who last-second baskets in the semi-final and championship games propelled her team to the NCAA Women’s Basketball title, will be one of the competitors on this year’s “Dancing With the Stars.”

Ogunbowale, the first active college athlete to participate on the popular TV show, will be allowed to compete for prize money while maintaining her amateur status, according to the NCAA.

This is a very positive development for a lot of reasons. But if you think it seems inconsistent with the NCAA’s prohibition against “amateur” athletes making money from their name, image and likeness, you’re not alone.

The NCAA’s explanation? Ogunbowale can receive prize money because it would be “unrelated to her NCAA basketball abilities.”

I guess we’re supposed to believe she was chosen because of her grade point average.

Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//

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