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Dark Endeavors

Another Hard Nosed Business Decision

CU Enters Cloud Coo-Coo Land

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, July 24, 2013.

New Hampshire is the only state that has - as its highest paid public employee - a hockey coach. I'm from New England; I know hockey is popular there, but I keep reading how the game is losing fans, and I thought this weird, given New Hampshire is a well educated and solvent state surrounded by peers with college presidents as the highest paid public employee. A hockey coach?

I shouldn't complain. While nine other states have Deans of medical or law schools as their highest paid public employees, the remaining forty have college football or basketball coaches on that throne.

Here in Boulder, CU just hired its new Athletic Director from the glimmering caves of the Texas Ranger baseball team. His name is Rick George, and he's set to pull in about $700k a year with incentives that could get him $1.3 million. Last December, the university hired a new football coach, Mike McIntire, for $2 million plus incentives that could make it over $3 million. The school also doubled the coaching staff's salary pool to about $5 million a year. Atop this they gave the one big time winning coach they have, Tad Boyles in basketball, a big raise to about $1.5 million. Atop the cash, CU promised to build McIntire a new football/athletics operations center within a set amount of time or the coach can leave with no penalty.

So, two male coaches and the athletic director absorb over 10 million a year plus the new football center, whatever precisely that might be. Last February, CU announced plans to raise at least $50 million from private sources this year, less than a third of the $170 million needed for facility upgrades and construction. This is nevertheless a stirring goal, considering the CU athletic department has never raised as much as $16 million in one year. However, CU had an outside agency do a feasibility study saying that $50 million goal was doable, although it didn't say doable in one year or attach any timeline to it. Also, who paid for this coldly objective forecast?

The Chancellor at CU, Phil DiStefano, had announced with great fanfare his rugged determination to get an AD who'd run the athletic department like a business and balance the budget every year. This is the sort of talk that Chamber of Commerce types love, and titans of industry love, and they can harump around in manly displays of business know-how. But, just like Chickenhawks with their lapel pins mistaking themselves for soldiers or military giants, their offerings are all just talk and not based in the real world and simple appeals to a shared mythology of nonsense. For example, most of the harumps come from those who think a football coach is okay as the highest paid employee of the state.

But certainly, if the football program is successful, it pays for the entire athletic department and brings in good cash, vibes, and karma to the entire school during the good years. Television contracts alone can be a big part of university budgets. It can happen, and does. If the basketball program is also a winner, from a business or just common sense point of view it all makes sense and benefits the student body and the town and state, so what's with the nay saying?

Since the Pro Bike race here last year, the dismal financial results of which were clearly projected as well as the methods of presentation and excuses by the backers to hide it, I've tried to point out that this is not an anti-athletic issue. Whether for the bike race, or for the new CU facilities, or for the newly discovered Civic Center in Boulder with the supposedly needed Performing Art Center used a cover for the Conference Center the business community wants, these projects all follow the same route and the same methods of deception and selling. Foremost is the mythology that fluffs the egos of potential donors or taxpayers who are always the deep pocket.

If you tally the actual expenses and incomes of college football programs, I doubt many are in the black at all. The AD at Michigan said as much. It's a bad business model, he said. Yet, here are CU's leaders proudly announcing what chances are will be a financial horror, upping its annual deficit significantly on the hope that a new coach and AD can turn the financial black hole the department has been into a winner based on business criteria. Really?