EDITORIAL BOARD: When it comes to athletic coaches and adjunct faculty, USC must rethink salary distribution
This season, USC took part in the NCAA fanfare, making its first appearance past the Round of 64 in the tournament since 2009. Head coach Andy Enfield’s Trojans’ tournament march drew plenty of eyeballs, but behind the scenes, it also contributed toward the $21 million and counting the Pac-12 has earned thus far from the 2017 NCAA Tournament — money that winds its way back to USC and other schools in the conference.
Such money could be reallocated to fund coaches’ salaries, which can range into the millions. This is understandable—good coaches attract star recruits, and a splashy salary pulls in the best coaches throughout the nation. But this precedent places an undue emphasis upon sports. And when more money is pocketed by coaches than the adjunct faculty of our institution, the University misses its mark.
In an overwhelming majority of states, the highest-earning public employee is a football or basketball head coach. University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh tops the list with an annual income of $9 million, and three of his assistants earn $1 million a year.
USC is not absent from this trend. Though football head coach Clay Helton’s salary has yet to be disclosed, his predecessor, Steve Sarkisian, made $3.6 million a year — a number that’s almost three times what President C.L. Max Nikias earns. Enfield reportedly inked a $1.5 million-a-year deal when he left Florida Gulf Coast University. And according to the Equity in Athletics Data Analysis database, the average head coach salary for USC men’s sports teams is $534,645.
While athletic programs are many universities’ main profit-drawing centers— USC Athletics has raked in at least $100 million a year for the past three years — the income disparity between adjunct faculty and head coaches is astonishing. The top head coaches may earn in the millions, but their salaries dwarf that of adjunct professors, who earn an average of $20,000 to $126,000 each year.
Nationwide, adjunct professors feel the void of the job security and benefits afforded to full-time faculty. Many often have to hold teaching positions at multiple universities just to have a dignified lifestyle — in an interview with NPR, artist Dushko Petrovich detailed his cumbersome commute between New York University, Yale, Rhode Island School of Design and Boston University, all places where he holds professorships.
Faculty have already voiced discontent with the University. Last fall, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences faculty filed charges against USC, alleging that the “business model of education” left many of them economically insecure with low wages and few benefits. Not only has there been little resolution to the issue thus far, but the University has also condemned the USC Faculty Union — a group of non-tenure track professors, aiming for higher pay and more secure contracts.
As such, the University should reevaluate its focus on the distribution of salaries. The athletics program generates a massive profit and students are paying the highest tuition yet, but adjunct faculty still aren’t being paid enough. The University must relinquish some of its emphasis on the athletics program, and that starts with reconsidering the vast amount of money they pay some head coaches each year. Otherwise, it’s pitting sports against academia.
School sports are an integral part of collegiate life. We feel the energy in the football and basketball stands, and it draws strangers closer to one another. What is not in the Trojan spirit, however, is leaving our professors — the pillars of our education — sidelined.
Daily Trojan Spring 2017 Editorial Board