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Few Sacrifices from Fat Cat Coaches

In response to the mounting financial repercussions of the COVID pandemic, almost half of the major college football and basketball coaches in the U.S. have taken voluntary pay cuts to help ease the burden on their schools.

Commendable. Responsible. Something any reasonable, caring coach should do, right?

Well, there is one group that has, for the most part, refused to make any sacrifices.

A group so self-absorbed, so self-important, so lacking in empathy and so indifferent to the best interests of their own institutions that they’ve resisted the urge to pitch in.

That group?

The guys who can afford it the most. The highest-paid college football and basketball coaches in America.

I know it’s hard to believe, but according to a survey conducted by ESPN, 8 of the 10 highest-paid football coaches and at least half of the top basketball coaches, have not taken a pay cut.

In football’s top 10, only Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley (who has been a lonely voice of reason for several months) have taken cuts. Both voluntarily agreed to a one-year, 10% reduction in their compensation—Harbaugh at $7.5M and Riley at $6.4M.

Those who haven’t offered to give up a dime include Clemson’s Dabo Swinney ($9.3 million), Alabama’s Nick Saban ($8.9M), Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher ($7.5) Georgia’s Kirby Smart ($6.9), Auburn’s Gus Malzahn ($6.8) Texas’ Tom Herman ($6.8), Purdue’s Jeff Brohm ($6.6M) and Florida’s Dan Mullen ($6.1).

I don’t know about you, but having to cut my salary from $9.3 million down to $8.4 would be downright depressing. Imagine the hardships you’d have to endure.

I’m sure lots of guys on the street who’ve lost their jobs or struggle to get by on $50K would empathize.

Basketball coaches are a little more generous, as Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Louisville’s Chris Mack and Kansas’ Bill Self are all reducing their paychecks. But Kentucky’s John Calipari, Tennessee’s Rick Barnes, Texas Tech’s Chris Beard and North Carolina’s Roy Williams all said “no dice.”

(UCLA’s Mick Cronin indicated he was awaiting guidance from the UC system and Villanova’s Jay Wright declined to participate in the survey).

We’ve written in this space many times about the absurd salaries being paid to college coaches—not just head coaches, but offensive and defensive coordinators as well.

The fact that these fat cats won’t chip in when their universities and athletic departments are being forced to implement drastic cost-saving measures, including layoffs, furloughs, sports cuts and salary cuts, is disappointing, if not disgusting.

Play Ball: Barring any last-minute player walk-outs or COVID outbreaks, the 60-game MLB season begins Thursday. Among the things we'll be checking out, other than the games themselves: cardboard cutouts of fans, celebrities and baseball icons in the stands; piped in sound effects; enforcement of "no spitting" rules; dugouts full of people wearing masks; and starting extra innings with a runner on second base.

The big question, of course, is how long the season will last. I was unable to find an over/under betting line, but three weeks wouldn't be a bad bet.

NFL Dithering: Meanwhile, the NFL continues to squabble with its players over several items—whether there will be exhibition games, how the league will conduct testing, what happens when a player tests positive, and if a player can opt out.

Over the weekend, several of the top names in the NFL expressed their frustration with the suits in the commissioner’s office:

Drew Brees: “If the NFL doesn’t do their part to keep players healthy, there is no football in 2020. It’s that simple. Get it done, NFL!”

Russell Wilson: “I am concerned. My wife is pregnant. Training camp is about to start…and there’s still no clear plan on player health and family safety. We want to play football, but we also want to protect our loved ones.”

Patrick Mahomes: “Getting ready to report this week hoping the NFL will come to agreement with the safe and right protocols so we can feel protected playing the sport we love.”

Final Word: This from one of my favorite writers, Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde, on the increasing likelihood that there will be no college football season in 2020.

“If the season dies, we know who had the biggest hand in killing any chance of it happening: Donald Trump.

Slow to respond, quick to downplay the risk, unwilling to create a national strategy, quite willing to attack governors who took the pandemic seriously, pushing for premature openings of states, flaunting a no-mask stance for months and turning that into a belligerent political statement, Trump and his ideologues are now marinating in a midsummer mess of their own creation. What an epic failure of leadership.

By blowing the summer he’s jeopardized the fall, doing more to endanger the college football season than anyone in America. And now we’ll see whether some semblance of college football can still be played. If not, send the receipts for a lost season to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”


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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