The growing disparity between athletics and academics
Athletic departments throughout the Mid-American Conference use cars as an incentive to recruit top tier talent. Aside from Central Michigan University, the other schools that did comment could not name another department in their university that uses a complimentary automobile as a recruiting tool.
The 12 full-time schools in the MAC hand out a total of 197 complimentary cars to employees of the athletic departments with Central Michigan University doling out the most at 38. Central Michigan’s College of Medicine has one complimentary car for the entire department.
Nick Williams, associate athletic director at Central Michigan University, said that he doesn’t think the balance between athletics and academics is out of balance.
Employees in the athletic department who don’t receive a car often get a stipend for a car payment. Five schools (Central Michigan, Northern Illinois, Kent State, Miami of Ohio and Ball State) offer no stipends. Of the remaining schools where data is available, monthly stipends range from $225 to $800 per month. In Bowling Green’s case, according to Athletic Director Greg Christopher, employees are free to use his or her $225 to $500 stipend on anything they wish, not just cars.
Kent State Athletic Director Joel Nielsen sees these complimentary cars and stipends as essential to recruiting top tier coaching talent.
“It’s one of those competitive advantage situations where if we weren’t doing it, we’d be at a competitive disadvantage,” Nielsen said. “So by doing it, you keep up with your peer institutions.”
Nielsen also said that the dynamic between athletics and academics is not out of balance.
“I think we being in the MAC, we’ve got a good sense on how to spend money, how much money we need, how to fundraise and how to be responsible to the institution. I would challenge most people to say there is frivolous spending.”
Some, however, do see these perks as out of balance. David Ridpath, former coach and current assistant professor of Sports Administration at Ohio University, sees both ends of the spectrum. Being a former coach himself, he freely admits that receiving a free car was “great.”
“Honestly, that’s the one thing I really miss from athletics was getting the perk of a car,” he said.
But being on the outside now, he has a differing opinion.
“We have to work with congress on restricting the college athletic salaries because it’s so far out of control right now, especially when the rest of the campus is suffering economically.
“I think things are out of balance. You are getting a very good salary, shouldn’t you be able to afford your own car?”
Tom Symonds, assistant athletic director of media relations at Ohio University, said that the complimentary car incentive is a way to keep costs down in the athletic department.
“One of the biggest reasons we give coaches cars is so that they can do their jobs. Coaches need cars so that they can recruit,” Symonds said. “It is significantly cheaper for coaches to own or lease a car rather than pay mileage for recruiting visits.” Ohio University athletics department gives five complimentary cars to its employees and a monthly stipend ranging from $250 to $480 per month.
A college education is becoming more and more of a necessity in the current global economic landscape. Welch Suggs, sportswriter and associate director for the Knight Commission, feels that colleges need to readjust priorities and focus more on education.
“In the grand scheme of things, on a global and even national scale it is not right that these coaches receive the highest payments,” Suggs said. “Education and students should be the highest priority. In small schools it’s not right that athletic departments are using money subsidized from students to pay for these things that they give to coaches for free.
“These coaches better walk around campus and say ‘thank you’ for their cars to every student they see.”