Anyone who reads this blog knows I like sports, all kinds of sports. Football, basketball, running, soccer and professional bike racing are my primary interests. They are competitive, compelling and the ultimate "reality TV" programming. And in the case of running, something I actually do myself. And, I freely admit my favorite sports to watch are those played by teams from my college alma matter - a public university.
Also, you probably have picked up that I am not exactly a rabid "small government" right winger. In other words, I'm not apt to complain about "the government" on some sort of ideological rant about its size, its supposedly inherent evils and related conspiracy theories. Sure, I bitch about state and federal government when it deserves it, but not on an ideological level.
All of which is to set up something disturbing I saw today online on the Web site Addicting Info. It's a chart created from research conducted by Indianapolis TV station WTHR-TV. It shows the highest paid public employees in each of the 50 states. Below. Guess what? In 40 of the 50 states, the highest paid public employee is a head football or basketball coach at a university. Oh, I stand corrected, New Hampshire's top paid public employee is a university hockey coach.
Check it out...
This bothers me. Yes, I like college sports. Yes, I want my school to have competitive programs for a lot of reasons. And I know that quality coaches don't come cheap. But, I also am also quite concerned that so much public money is being spent on what amounts to securing someone to orchestrate entertainment. It the form of universities, the government is spending a huge amount of money on something that is not really related to education or the betterment of society. Couldn't that money be spent on something more important for students and the nation?
The chart brings up the questions: What do we as a country actually value when it comes to higher education? Is it quality education? Is it creating young people with skills to work in today's economy? Is it research to solve problems and cure diseases? If you follow the money, you have to say no...the highest value we put on public universities is entertainment in the form of sports.
The counter-argument is that by having high paid coaches, programs can perform better on the field and therefore generate more visibility, regard and - most importantly - revenue for their respective universities. And this overall is a benefit to the institutions, students and faculty.
In the end, I understand that the market is what the market is. And, human nature is what it is. Coaches will get what they can get. Universities in this era of limited resources need to get the most bang for their buck when it comes to investing in things that will ultimately generate more revenue. And, everyday people like to watch sports - particularly those associated with where they live or where they went to school.
I guess I'd just like to see more BLUE on the above map than we're seeing now.