RichRod's contract says it all: We care about you as athletes, not students

A couple of lines in the contract of the new University of Arizona football coach demonstrates what many in higher education have said for years – and what came out more recently in analysis of the Penn State scandal: College athletics, in particular football, are abusive and dishonest in their very nature. There can be no better evidence of this dishonesty than in the term “scholar-athletes.” If the emphasis was truly on the former, Rich Rodriquez’s contract would not offer a $150,000 bonus for winning a BCS national title game while only offering a mere $5,000 for a team average – not individual, mind you, just average –  GPA of 2.6. (See bottom of this article for contract breakdown.)

If the University of Arizona and the Arizona Board of Regents REALLY thought the most important thing for these young men was a college education instead of being pimped out by the university and the board for fan entertainment value, they would offer RichRod $150,000 for a team average GPA of 2.6 and (wait for it) no bonus for winning. Why should he get a bonus for winning? That’s his job and at a base salary of $1.45 million, I’m thinking he’s well-enough paid. The thing that is difficult to do – and the thing that matters in the long run for the vast majority of those football players – is helping them get an education with a GPA that is good enough to help them get a job in the current economic marketplace.

But no, that’s not what the University or the Regents value – at least not by the looks of the contract. Fine by me, but the least they could do is be honest with the public, the professors at the university, and, most of all the players and their parents. Then again, I’m guessing a recruiting pitch that went like this wouldn’t go over too well: “Yes, Mrs. Smith, Johnny will be studying at one of the highest-ranked research universities in the nation. Of course, practice will come first and so he’ll have to pick a major that is flexible as far as when classes are offered and one that isn’t too demanding because he simply won’t have time to study. We know the vast majority of our student-athletes won’t make the pros so we do try to give them a backup plan, but we just have to limit their choices due to their football schedule. Our primary goal, as you can tell by my contract, is using your son to help us win a BSC national title because if we win, I get a bonus of $150,000!!  But we really DO care about him so we’ll give him a tuition waiver to attend the classes that he can in his major and a Dean’s Excuse to miss classes on the days we’re traveling for games. It’s a great deal!”

If RichRod was so fabulous – and if the UA administration and Regents really cared about these athletes as students – the coach and regents would flip Rodriguez’s contract around to have the bonuses aimed at academic success not athletic prowess. And for that matter, R-squared would say, “Hey, I don’t need $1.45 million (who needs that much money???). I’ll get by on a pawltry $200,000 plus bonuses and the university – being an academic institution and all – can spend the rest of that money on (shock!) academics.” If neither the university, the coach or the Regents are willing to do any such thing, they need to drop the pretense of “scholar-athletes” and come clean with everyone involved.

23 thoughts on “RichRod's contract says it all: We care about you as athletes, not students

  1. This is the most absurd articles I have ever read.  Why don’t you stick to subject you are well informed in.  From what I have read you are a typical stand on your soap box putz who thinks they know everything!  Did you know football money is what pays for all other athletic programs? Did you know that football ticket sales are what funds the vast majority of the general scholarship fund?  Please stop writing ignorant columns.  Oh and your argument about how they should concentrate on getting them a higher GPA so they can get a job in this terrible economy.  News flash, a few points higher on their GPA is not going to make a difference in this economy!  Shallow arguements for a pathetic article!  And if we did structure this they way all knowing you would have done, we would have a football team that can not compete and would bring in little to no money for softball, swimming, track and feild.  Great idea!!! Who needs that?!?!  Athletics is not a part of academics anyway, right!?  Did you ever play high level athletics?  There are intangibles that are learned on the playing feild that truely do help the student athletes in their future endeavors.  Football may not be important to you, but I promise you it is very important to these kids.  They may not make the NFL but the things they learn from a good high dollar coach can be as valuable to their future as concentrating on academics night and day. 

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    1. Hi, Ben, thanks for writing. Actually, I do know a lot about this subject because I covered higher ed at the UA, including the funding of the athletic department. You are right that football does fund much of the other althletic programs. (Think of how much more it could fund if the salary and bonuses were less? 🙂 ) However, you are misinformed about the general scholarship fund. That money comes from a variety of sources, but not athletics at UA. Athletics at UA (unlike many universities) is considered “self-supporting,” but as the former president of the UA once told me, it sort of depends on how you define “self-supporting.” For instance, the athletes are given tuition waivers (as are merit-scholars for academics) and that money is money “not realized” by the university. In a sense, he said, you could argue that the UA does subsidize athletics and that it is not completely self-supporting.  My contention is that these kids need to be focused more on academics and if not, let’s just be honest about it and drop the whole “scholar-athlete” myth.

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  2. Feel free to start working for free yourself then Mr. Blogger. Half the guys on that team are there to launch NFL careers, not academic excellence as your naivete suggests.

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  3. This article is flawed on so many levels, but I will take a shot at addressing a couple of them.
     
    You DO know that the athletic department budget and the academic budget don’t intersect right? Savings in athletics would NOT translate into higher academic budgets.
     
    You DO know that he was hired to do the job of coaching the football team and that universities have teams of people devoted to helping the athletes excel in the classroom, and that the football coach doesn’t have anything beyond facilitating responsibilities there right?
     
    You DO know that the U of A is a little different than most universities in that it has two athletic programs that fund the rest of the athletic department right? Usually a university relies on the football program generating enough money to pay for all of the scholarships in the athletic department. Without the big business aspect of football, almost all other scholarships would have to be eliminated, thereby removing educational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of student athletes.
     
    You DO realize that these incentives are designed to increase the athletic budget, and enable scholarships to keep pace with inflation and the rest of the world right?
     
    I think that you should stick to “God Blogging”, where you don’t need reason or evidence, or accuracy in your “facts”, and where it is impossible to be proven wrong, because when you are addressing the ills of the new coach’s contract, you are obviously very ignorant about most of you’re premises.
     
    I have no problem with opinions differing from mine, as long as the information in the argument is truthful and accurate. Truth and accuracy are missing from this article. I think that a prerequisite to pontification on an issue is education on the issue, but maybe that’s just me.

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    1. Hi, Rex — yes, I do know many of the things you state above. (See reply to commenter above you for clarification.) While the budgets do not intersect, their is nothing saying they couldn’t. My point is that universities (and UA isn’t alone in this) claim to care about the players as students, when, in fact, they really don’t. If they did, they would put their money where their mouths are and offer bonuses to coaches for increased academic performance of the players.

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      1. your initial point is to eliminate bonuses for the benefit of  the student then you go tangential with MORE BONUS for academic achievement.   the fact of the matter is, these easily attainable bonuses are factored into contracts as non-base salary when in reality are  just fragments of the overall enducement.   that’s the reality of it all. 

        do  coaches care if the student excels in the classroom?   of course, they all do,  but they are hired to win games and make sure they get to class, period.  the academic side of the athlete falls into the more qualified hands of our professors.   if the professor fails, everyone fails.   raising the GPA scale for higher bonuses just doesn’t work for a segment of students who are normally behind the academic curve. 

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      2. Having attended the U of A, one simple thing would happen:

        We wouldn’t get good coaches and we wouldn’t get good players.

        If you have a problem, it is with the NCAA model.  Since I am a U of A alum and fan, I prefer that we keep winning games.  If the athletes keep up in class, good for them.  If not, between the adrenaline rush, a shot at pro football and serious cash/fame, and a horde of girls throwing themselves at you like Angry Birds, I think that GPA is going to be a detail that doesn’t matter.  

        Which coach in his right mind is going to tie any real money to that?  This isn’t a Kevin Costner movie.  If you give every athlete $5000 + aforementioned benefits above for meeting the GPA requirement, then you have a wonderful plan that would work but would be in violation of NCAA rules.

        So what is a 2.6 GPA worth to Rich Rod?

        About $5000 on paper.

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  4. Ohh what a wonderful beat down! Those last two comments were great. I was wondering why this blogsite was covering a sports topic. I dont care what Rich Rod gets played as long as he beats ASU,USC and UCLA. If I remember the salaries for coaches are paid out of the revenues of the programs.

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    1. Hi, Fraser – you are right, the salaries are paid out of the revenues of the programs. Are they ridiculously high? Absolutely. Should the football coach make more than the president of the university or the doctor who pioneers heart transplants? Not so certain of that.

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  5. Maybe we should start an “Occupy Arizona Stadium” and block the coming football season.  Then we could effectively shut down Rich Rodf and his money machine.  Then so many people would be out of work at the university and the surrounding neighborhoods (coaches, hot dog vendors, hot dog suppliers, pop corn growers, tutors, print shops, ticket takers-you get the idea) that maybe we could force higher taxes on the 1%.
    You go Renee…….get er done. 

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    1. Hi, Lemon — I think you’re missing the point. We just need to be honest about what we’re doing with college athletics. It isn’t about education and I think the Regents – as they get ready t raise tuition again for all students – and the administration of the UA should just say that: We want you to come to school to be our entertainment. We won’t pay you, but we’ll help you pay for some of your college expenses via our ticket sales, and maybe you’ll get a degree or maybe you won’t, but you’ll have a good time playing sports. I have nothing against sports- I think they teach great lessons that cannot be found in a classrroom and they help many kids get opportunities they might not have otherwise. But … I think we “sell” college athletics as an educational venture, thus the term “scholar-athlete” and the emphasis on winning versus learning in the contract shows that we’re being dishonest with that term.

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      1. You knock it down, but that is your opinion. If I could, I would play a sport to get free tuition, room, and board. I would keep the same degree, BS optical science and engineering. I currently have to hold a pizza delivery and a tutor job just to supplement my financial aid for tuition, rent, bills, and food. That’s 15 hours for school and 36 hours for my two jobs a week, nonetheless, I still have a GPA of 3.32. Some student-athletes are just lazy, but most have the ability to compete in sports and excel in the classroom of a decent major (yes, there are scheduling conflicts, but ways around them); it is just up to them.

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    2. I love the idea one commenter stated about having the “Occupy Tucson” crowd set up shop at the U of A Stadium! That way the U of A Football fans could have a run ath them. lets see 100 Wildcat fans vs. 100 malnurished Birkenstocked, pony tailed left wing revoltunaries who cant even pay their park fines…..No contest. Its their same old crowd. They dont even go past Sam Hughes Neighborhood or 22nd St. They dont feel comfortable.
      Those football players get their degrees as well as go to practise and travel and play games. Some get degrees that are tough. Some not so tough. But they give more to life in Tucson and the U of A thanmany other “anti-football” students. Who the hell do you think pays for the other sports for the U of A. The Golf Team..nope. The basketball and football program allows many other students to play sports and get an education.
      Guess this will be your last trip writing about something you don’t know about. I can’t say I am familiar with your blog site. Maybe I will check it out sometime. This is coming from a right wing Republican free thinker. Yes, we exist. Also a football fan.

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  6. The athletic department raises money for the entire university. If the athletic department didn’t exist and they didn’t have a football team, they couldn’t sell merchandise to non-alumni customers. The coach is paid that high because that is how valuable a mediocre football is to the citizens of this town. It is all relative. If everyone was buying season tickets to go watch the doc perform surgeries I can guarantee he would be paid accordingly.
    Some of those student athletes will go on to make more money than Rich Rod in the NFL. They ALL get a free education from a stellar institution. If I would have had the foresight to see how valuable a free education would have been to my future, I would have worked a lot harder in football practice as a kid, my life would be a lot better right now.
    I agree that there should be incentive for education goals, but I really dislike articles that attack something that is so valuable to the university.

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  7. I’M NO RR FAN,, CANT STAND HIM.. BUT SAD FACTS ARE EVERYTHING IS MONEY DRIVEN NOWADAYS.. THE MORE R-SQUARED WINS THE MORE MONEY AU BRINGS IN TO HELP FUND FB AND OTHER SPORTS…. I U’S THE PREMISE OF THE ARTICLE BUT SADLY THOSE DAYS ARE GONE…. WINNING IS JUST MORE IMPORTANT… AND BTW, W/O FOOTBALL MOST OF THESE YOUNG MEN WDNT EVEN GO TO COLLEGE… SO IT REALLY CHANGES NOTHING

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  8. I understand we pay our professors pretty good money to see that the kids get educated. Why would we require a coach at any sport to maintain a team gpa of 2.6, or the band director where the kids spend many hours practicing and away from their studies, to the point that some of them are on the verge of passing out?

    The responsibility of education are the educators. Have the educators work on a pay scale where their students need to maintain a 2.5 gpa. If the student athlete can’t maintain a gpa high enough to play any sport, then it’s the responsibility of the school to go and pull that kid out of the sport he or she is playing. It’s not the coach’s responsibility to teach biology, algebra, chemistry, English,  and coach football among the many responsibilities that he has. So now you want the coach to teach biology because the student athlete is under a 2. gpa? It’s the responsibility of the professor and his/her assistants to make sure the students can get educated and trained to be able to go out and find a job. Let’s put the professor back to work!

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  9. obviously since you have to defend every statement you made its not really a good subject to speak upon. give us a call when some kids 4.0 gpa brings my school a couple million dollars. the whole reason these kids can get an education is because athletics fund it.

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  10. This subject will always make the college football fans angry.  

     Some don’t like to hear the root question:  If a university is an institution of learning, then why is so much time and money spent on a game?   And then:  Why arn’t the standards and goals of learning the same for the athletes as for every other student?

    There is no question the path to success in football is slimmer by far than just a college degree, and I think the point of this article is to give the student-athlete a chance, by adding education as one of the coaches incentives, in the very likely chance the student doesn’t make it in football.   

    Bottom line, is money.    Universities, and in particular college football, have turned into big businesses.  Where does it stop?   Has a good football season ever made smarter and better people?  At some point, we will need to set priorities for higher education.

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    1. Glad to see a level headed response to this opinion piece. This sort of topic has been all over the news lately, what with the Penn State scandal being broken. I find it shocking so many make comments attacking points the blogger has already clarified, such as her understanding of the facts of college athletics. As stated above we need to set priorities for higher education. When professors are fearful over their programs being cut for lack of funding and student tuition prices are rising yearly, you have to ask yourself if it is time to tap into the money machine that is Football at the UofA. I am also an alumni yet do not get offended by questioning the ethics of how players are treated and how much coaches are paid. Frank Deford seems to agree with me.
      There are many athletes who do not get full tuition waivers. Not to mention they have to find money for housing, food, other living expenses. This topic is very large and complicated and many previous commentors have false information (such as the fact that football funds more than other athletics, or that student athletes get paid for what they do), but if we look at the bottom line of what the blogger is saying we could perhaps all agree that student athletes should be valued for more than  how well they play. 

      Also…I’m a birkenstock wearing, short-haired, free-thinking individual who is not malnourished and pays all my bills. Shocking how vicious some people feel they can be when hiding in the blogosphere. 

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  11. Arizona lost academic standing under Shelton. It had nothing to do with athletics. It had to do with funding and a weak president.
     
    The yearly budget for Arizona is about 1.5 billion. UCLA for example has an annual budget well over 4 billion. The point being that athletics in no way is in the same category financially. Athletics are visible – very visible, while academics are not. The major impact on an institution like Arizona by athletics is in defining a brand – at least in the minds of those that ‘follow’ Arizona through media. Those that follow Arizona in research circles are probably unaffected.
     
    Athletics wont affect Arizona academically. Proper non-politicized funding and a good presidential hire will.
     
    As far as the athletes are concerned, most are not scholars … or care to be. Consider Derrick Williams who went pro this year forgoing the last two years of eligibility. Williams in 7th grade wanted to be in the NBA not middle school. Williams in 9th grade wanted to be in the NBA not highschool. Williams as a freshman wanted to be in the NBA not college. When given the chance, he jumped to the NBA and hasnt stopped smiling since.
     
    Are the kids being used? To an extent I’m sure they are. Each year you can identify players who will fail in college and not make it to the pros. And each year you can identify players who succeed in college and fail to make it to the pros. This group coming in is not scholarly. This is the norm. This is not Stanford – meaning – it is a public land grant school to which many many undeserving students will be eligible by definition. This includes undeserving (academically) athletes as well as state residents. Stanford is a private school that can do what it wishes.
     
    Were you to ask the question – how would the athlete have done in college had they attended as a normal student and not an athlete – I’m not at all certain the outcome would be much different.
     
    I wish them all well.
     

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  12. I dont think you have considered just how little is done for the failing student who entered as a state resident. I honestly think football players get much more help than run of the mill students.
     
    Consider this … most students pay lab fees commenserate (sp) with costs. What would be the ‘lab’ fees applicable to a football player? Facilities? Equipment? Training and coaching? Travel? If they were treated as other students, their semester fees would be staggering. I’m not sure at all that they are treated badly. I will say they are treated better than most students – who are left to their own devices to sink or swim on their own.

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  13. This is a classic case of a liberal wishing for the perfect world and forgetting they live in the real world.  Football, and Men’s Basketball, fund the Athletic Department.  Meaning Title IX programs too.  Worry less about a $5000 bonus for average GPA and more about the University of Arizona having to be like asu and cutting programs.    Besides, scholarships are mandated to have a specific GPA anyway so you’re crying about the grass being green.

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