By June 22, 2016 Uncategorized 7 Comments

We learned yesterday that the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents approved a 7 percent increase in tuition and fees for the upcoming school year.

OU President David L. Boren called the situation “the most critical budget crisis in the history of the university.” OU also announced the reduction of about 300 employee positions and three percent salary cuts for President Boren and other high-level university officers.

This news likely precipitated a temporary panic on behalf of OU fans across our state:

“Holy crap, this is horrible news! But, wait–I got to know. This budget cut won’t affect our athletic programs or coaches salaries, will it? Alabama just raised their offensive coordinator’s pay to $1 million a year! How will we ever keep  Lincoln Riley on campus for only $550,000 a year. Poor Bob Stoops hasn’t seen a raise in almost a year and I heard that several NFL general managers have him on speed dial. We have been so lucky to keep Bob at only $5.3 million a year. Oh, and have you seen that horrible locker room our players have to use. It’s almost SIX years old, for goodness sake!”

(yeah, take a look at the out-of-date locker room our poor OU football athletes have to endure.)

Well, thankfully for Sooner fans, there was no need for concern.

OU fans breathed a huge collective sigh of relief when they opened the Tulsa World this morning to see that all was well in Soonerville. In fact, it appears most of OU’s coaches will be able to weather this budget shortfall quite well.

Take a look yourself:

(Source: Tulsa World)

President Boren was quick to point out that none of the funding for coaches’ salaries, stadium renovations or additions to the Lloyd Noble Center would come from tuition fees or taxpayer money.

I get that. I also understand that these two actions on the part of the OU Regents involve completely different revenue sources and funding processes. Just as with public schools, it’s not possible to simply move funds from one pot of money to another.

I also don’t begrudge anyone for negotiating a competitive wage for their services. These coaches work hard for their money and their collective efforts generate tremendous revenue for the University’s programs.

Yet, I  submit that so do the professors who educate the thousands of students who go on to earn degrees, get good jobs, pay taxes, and contribute to the Oklahoma economy for the next forty years. How much are those efforts worth?

Extrapolate this reasoning down to the average secondary school teacher with 140 students. What is the value of that teacher’s contribution to the education of Oklahoma’s future doctors, lawyers, engineers, social workers, school teachers, and football coaches?

It is truly embarrassing to consider what we pay people who have one of the most important jobs in our society.

Get this, the starting pay for a first-year teacher in Oklahoma with a PhD is $34,000. I’m guessing we aren’t attracting many doctors into our ranks at that pay.

At the very least, can we come to some consensus that a public school superintendent of a large school district, who is on-call 24/7 and responsible for every aspect of a $100 million a year operation with 1,000+ employees, deserves to make at least half of what the inside linebacker coach at OU makes?

I’m sure Tim Kish is a swell guy and a very capable linebacker coach. Yet, does it really take $355,000 to attract and retain a quality candidate to coach four or five college football players?

Maybe it’s just me, but I find it a little unseemly to celebrate pay raises for coaches at the same time we eliminate other OU employee positions and raise tuition on tens of thousands of current and future students.

Next year’s tuition and fee increase will apply to all resident and nonresident undergraduate and graduate students. Based on tuition rates for 2015-2016, this increase will hit student and parent pocketbooks for an additional $700 or more, starting this year.

The pay raises provided to coaches in the graphic above would cover nearly half of this tuition increase for the incoming Freshman class.

The bitter reality is too many Oklahomans see no problem paying Bob Stoops as much money in ONE YEAR as President Boren has made in his entire 22 years on the OU campus.

It is a question of priorities. Regrettably, I think we know where public education and teachers stand in the eyes of many in Oklahoma.

I suppose my real question at this point is if it’s too late for me to learn how to coach linebackers at my age?  I’ll let you know.

(post script: If you haven’t seen this before, you will enjoy this 2015 video from Key and Peele that imagines a world quite different from the one we live now!)

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