Athletics over academics? The price of success is steep for Baylor sports
BY SHEHAN JEYARAJAH
*Editors Note: Salary numbers have been changed from the printed version in order to reflect accurate base salaries. Previous versions may have included additional compensatory items.
Baylor men’s basketball coach Scott Drew, women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey and football coach Art Briles are the three highest paid employees at Baylor University, and it’s not really close.
According to the most recent tax records available, Briles and Drew made $2,160,641 and $2,044,773 respectively in 2011. Mulkey made $1,085,380 on top of that.
The salaries of the highest paid academic officials pale in comparison to the top of the athletic department. Baylor chief academic officer Elizabeth Davis and Dr. Lee Nordt, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, earned $310,793 and $221,235 respectively during the same time frame.
Ken Starr, president and chancellor of Baylor and the fourth most compensated employee at Baylor, was paid $577,531 in 2011, less than Mulkey and a third of what Drew and Briles collected. Starr was the third-highest paid president in the Big 12.
The following year, Baylor had the “Year of the Bear,” a period where former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III won a Heisman Trophy and led Baylor to an Alamo Bowl victory, women’s basketball won a championship, men’s basketball made the Elite Eight and every varsity sports team at Baylor qualified for postseason competition.
After an 11-2 season in 2013, Briles signed a 10-year extension with Baylor in November that reportedly included a pay increase. Mulkey and Drew also likely received bonuses for their on-court success in 2012.
Baylor’s mission statement emphasizes the university’s commitment to education and faith. Even the athletic department’s mission statement emphasizes that its main purpose is to complement Baylor’s existing statutes.
The rates Baylor pays out to its coaches are consistent with the level paid to other coaches in the Big 12 conference.
At the University of Texas at Austin, former football coach Mack Brown was paid $5,266,667, substantially more than university president Bill Powers’ $613,612. The average Big 12 football coach is paid nearly $3 million and men’s basketball coaches are paid over $2.2 million on average.
Presidents of Big 12 universities are paid an average salary of $541,562, which is only 21 percent of the salary of football or basketball coaches.
Even more than academics, top-of-the-line athletics increases the reach of a university on a national level. When football was ranked in the top 10 and RGIII won a Heisman, Baylor was featured on ESPN constantly. The same was true of men’s basketball during their Elite Eights and women’s national championship run.
The increased exposure in athletics has led toward increased enrollment in the classroom at Baylor. The university welcomed its largest freshman class after the Year of the Bear while boasting the lowest acceptance rate in the Big 12. Baylor administrators know the effect that athletics can have on academics when it comes to brand profile and funding.
“On a college campus, athletics is so visible,” Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw told the Lariat in November. “I think the success we’ve had has re-engaged some of the alumni who had gone off before and put us on the map nationally, which certainly helps with fundraising, recruiting students and getting the university name out there from an institutional and branding standpoint.”
Not every sport enjoys the same level of compensation as basketball and football. Only salaries up to a certain point have to be reported on tax forms. Out of 17 sports at Baylor, only the aforementioned three, assistant football coach Phil Bennett and longtime baseball coach Steve Smith are paid enough to be included on Baylor’s tax forms, making $322,639 and $389,336 respectively. For faculty to be included on the tax form, members must earn a minimum of $150,000.
Briles reached Baylor in 2007 and has led the program to its first four-bowl streak in Baylor history, including their first BCS bowl appearance.
Drew took the helm of a basketball program in 2003 that was mired in scandal, tragedy and penalties, but has led the Bears to multiple Elite Eight appearances and a National Invitational Tournament championship.
In 2000, Mulkey took over a women’s program that had not reached the national postseason tournament since 1977 and has turned it into a consistent top five national program and two-time national champion.
Putting this money towards athletic coaches in the major sports is a way of marketing Baylor’s brand and increasing the profile of the university and value of its degrees.